Employees at Amazon can access geolocation information for Alexa users, according to reports – thus uncovering their home addresses and even satellite pictures of their houses generated from a service such as Google Earth.
Alexa is the built-in voice assistant shipped with devices like Amazon Echo, Amazon Dot, Fire TV and some third-party gadgets. Confidential employee sources speaking to Bloomberg said that the global team that manually audits Alexa’s accuracy in understanding voice commands can “easily find” a customer’s home address, by combining the GPS coordinates that they have access to with public mapping services.
This division, known as the Alexa Data Services Team, is tasked with listening to random samplings of voice commands – and then matching up Alexa’s response to them to see if the voice-recognition technology is working the way that it should. In theory this is anonymized, but location information in the form of GPS coordinates is captured in order to provide localized search results. For instance, if a user asks for the weather forecast, or a review for a restaurant, the geolocation data is necessary to carry out the requests.
Five Amazon employees confirmed to Bloomberg that the division has access to the location data, and two members of the Alexa team said that they felt they have been given “unnecessarily broad access” to personal information.