November 15, 2019

Make Way for the Surveillance State

“Amazon Echo, released in 2014, introduced voice software into the home, quickly followed by Google Home, Apples’s HomePod and other generic smart speakers. In fact, the researcher Canalys, suggests 78 million smart speakers were sold last year. And don’t forget the millions of people who use digital assistants on their smartphones and tablets.

All voice processing devices are pretty much the same across all brands. So, if we talk about one brand you can be sure it applies to all.

Amazon’s Echo has a virtual persona called Alexa that continually records audio while waiting to hear her ‘wake word’. Because Alexa has to listen to regional dialects and different languages, it often mishears the question. It’s then up to a human annotator to flag misunderstood words or phrases and actually specify their meaning. At the present stage in voice software technology, there’s no other way of teaching neural networks.

Apparently, only company employees and subcontractors hear the recordings, and when challenged the official response is usually similar to this email from Amazon to”

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