If you've got an Amazon Echo device in your home, a new report on the info that Amazon employees have access to may be of interest to you.
Some members of the Amazon team in charge of auditing Alexa commands have access to users' geographic coordinates, say sources speaking to Bloomberg. Those latitude and longitude details can then be typed into third-party mapping software to find users homes.
The team that analyzes Alexa commands is spread across three continents and is tasked with transcribing, annotating, and analyzing some of the voice recordings from Alexa users. There's no indication that the Amazon employees with access to user location data has actually tried to track down users, but some of the workers are concerned that data access being granted to Amazon employees is unnecessarily broad.
The information gathered by Amazon includes device ID and a customer identification number, but the company also gathers location data so that Alexa can give you accurate info based on your location. For example, it could use this info to give you weather details for Portland, OR rather than Portland, ME. However, an Amazon employee is said to have demonstrated to Bloomberg how they can gather a user's coordinates and then view their house and address in Google Maps.
Amazon has responded to today's report, saying that access to its 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." The company added that its policies strictly prohibit access to or use of customer data for other reasons and that it has a zero tolerance policy for abuse. "We regularly audit employee access to internal tools and limit access whenever and wherever possible," Amazon said.
It's unclear how many Amazon employees have access to customer location info, but two Amazon employees have said that they believe many of the people in the Alexa Data Services team had access to the tools up until recently.
Many smart speaker users are fine with having an always-listening device in their home because with that trade-off, they get a device that can play music, answer questions, control their smart home, and more, all by using their voice. The news that some Amazon employees have access to Alexa users' geographic coordinates is a bit unsettling, though, even if Amazon says that it has a policy against misuse and audits employee access to internal tools. Now that the news of this is out, it'll be interesting to see if Amazon changes anything with regard to employee access to Alexa user info.