Amazon Alexa audio reviewers might know where you live

Some workers can access your likely location.

Laura Hautala Former Senior Writer
Laura wrote about e-commerce and Amazon, and she occasionally covered cool science topics. Previously, she broke down cybersecurity and privacy issues for CNET readers. Laura is based in Tacoma, Washington, and was into sourdough before the pandemic.
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Laura Hautala
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Workers who audit user conversations with Alexa for Amazon can access user location information, Bloomberg reported Wednesday.

The Amazon employees are spread out in teams around the world and audit recordings to help train the software behind Alexa to give better, more useful responses in the future. The location data is provided as geographic coordinates, according to a demonstration of the auditing tools seen by Bloomberg, which employees can then enter into everyday mapping software to turn into a physical address or location.

The report follows a previous investigation the news agency published in April revealing the existence of the human reviewers. At that time, Amazon said in a statement that the reviewers didn't have access to identifying information for people associated with an Alexa device.

Amazon said some employees have access to user location to help improve responses to region-specific requests. A spokesperson said Wednesday that the company keeps tight control over who can access the tools and a it's a small number of employees looking at a small selection of recordings.

"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," the spokesperson said. "We regularly audit employee access to internal tools and limit access whenever and wherever possible."

Smart speakers have revealed user location information in the past. A researcher found in June that Google Home speakers, as well as Chromecast devices, were leaking user location information that hackers could collect if they knew where to look. Google announced plans to patch the flaw.

What's more, human reviewers have access to data collected by smart home devices from other companies as well. In December, The Information reported that video from Ring home security cameras was being collected and stored at a facility in Ukraine where employees can analyze it. Ring is owned by Amazon.

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