Amazon has given Alexa users the option to disable human review of their voice recordings, and pledged greater clarity on the use of the strategy in the future, but says it will not follow Google and Apple in stopping the practice entirely in Europe.
Echo owners and other users of the company's virtual voice assistant can turn off human review on the Alexa privacy page by disabling a setting labeled "help improve Amazon services and develop new features".
A company spokesman said: "We take customers' privacy seriously and are continually reviewing our practices and procedures. For Alexa, we already offer customers the option to opt out of using their voice recordings to help develop new Alexa features .
"The voice recordings of customers using this demise are also excluded from our guided learning workflows that involve manual review of an extremely small selection of Alexa queries. We will also update information we provide to clients to make our practice more transparent." The new policy went into effect last Friday.
However, the company has not followed its competitors in ending human review completely. Last week, Apple announced a break in the review program after a Guardian report revealed the existence of the grading program, and the fact that the contractors working with it regularly hear confidential or personal information as a result of accidental activation. Apple says it is reviewing the program, and committed to building the ability to opt out of human review in a future software update.
Earlier in July, Google also paused its review program, although only within the EU, following a leak of 1,000 recordings from the company's assistant-smart speaker. More than one in seven of the recordings was unintentionally triggered, according to VRT, the Belgian television channel that broke the news, and many again contained personal information.
As a result of the leak, the Hamburg Data Protection Commission ordered Google to cease human review for three months and referred the matter to the Irish Data Protection Commissioner for review.