An Amazon.com Inc team auditing Alexa users’ commands has access to location data and can, in some cases, easily find a customer’s home address, according to five employees familiar with the programme.
The team, spread across three continents, transcribes, annotates and analyses a portion of the voice recordings picked up by Alexa. Team members with access to Alexa users’ geographic coordinates can easily type them into third-party mapping software and find home residences, according to the employees, who signed nondisclosure agreements barring them from speaking publicly about the programme.
While there’s no indication Amazon employees with access to the data have attempted to track down individual users, two members of the Alexa team expressed concern to Bloomberg that Amazon was granting unnecessarily broad access to customer data that would make it easy to identify a device’s owner.
Location data is more sensitive than many other categories of user information, said Lindsey Barrett, a teaching fellow at Georgetown Law’s Communications and Technology Clinic.
“Anytime someone is collecting where you are, that means it could go to someone else who could find you when you don’t want to be found,” she said.
In an earlier statement acknowledging the Alexa auditing programme, Amazon said “employees do not have direct access to information that can identify the person or account as part of this workflow.”
In a new statement responding to this story, Amazon said “access to internal tools is highly controlled, and is only granted to a limited number of employees who require these tools to train and improve the service by processing an extremely small sample of interactions. Our policies strictly prohibit employee access to or use of customer data for any other reason, and we have a zero tolerance policy for abuse of our systems.”
Amazon spends $1.7bn on video, music in Q1
Amazon.com Inc said it spent $1.7 billion on video and music content during the first quarter of this year, the first time the technology and retail giant has itemised the growing cost of providing streaming services to consumers.
In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Seattle company said it spent $1.5 billion on video and music during the same period in 2018. That sum includes the cost of licensing content and producing original filmed and musical offerings, as well as other costs associated with digital subscription services and rented content.
Amazon offers customers access to streaming video and music through its paid Prime membership programme, as well as other standalone subscription options.