The company has admitted to its customers that thousands of recordings are being analysed by staff and transcribed before feeding them back into the software.
As many as 1,000 clips are reviewed by workers in buildings all over the world, many of which do not bear any obvious indication that they are run by Amazon.
Amazon workers are listening to private and sometimes disturbing voice recordings to improve the voice-assistants understanding of human speech. As many as 1,000 clips are reviewed by staff members per shift who annotate and transcribe them.
Among more sinister content the workers have heard, have been a child screaming for help and two instances were they believed they heard a sexual assault taking place.
The revelations once again raise thorny ethical questions over the future of AI smart assistants in the home, how tech companies like Amazon are gathering personal information and just what they are – and should – be doing with it.
Smart assistants and the use of the recordings taken in the privacy of a customer’s home has been a long-standing ethical issue for tech firms.
Amazon also never explicitly mentions in its lengthy terms and conditions anything about humans presiding over the recordings.
Instead, it says all Alexa does it ‘answer your questions, fulfil your requests, and improve your experience and our services’.
It is also believed Apple and Google use a similar protocol with human reviewers eavesdropping on content from Siri and Assistant.
Amazon last night confirmed the revelations when approached by Bloomberg saying that ‘an extremely small sample of Alexa voice recordings’ are analysed by staff.
Staff members have said that the work is mostly mundane, however they do come across embarrassing clips, like a woman singing off-key in the shower.
The teams use internal chat rooms to share files when they need help deciphering a muddled word – or come when they come across an amusing recording.
In an emailed statement to MailOnline, an Amazon spokesperson said: ‘We only annotate an extremely small sample of Alexa voice recordings in order to improve the customer experience.
The report claimed staff had on occasions reported hearing recordings they described as distressing, but Amazon said they may share the experience in the internal chat room as a way of relieving stress.
Amazon told Bloomberg that it has ‘procedures in place’ for workers to follow when they hear something distressing.
The company confirmed that it does use the recordings as part of its work to improve Alexa’s ability to understand human language and speech patterns, but had strict security systems in place to keep user data safe.