The Orwellian implications of this news cannot be overstated. Amazon has hired thousands of professional listeners in centers in the United States and foreign countries such as Romania and Costa Rica. The privacy that an individual should expect in their own home is destroyed once these devices are installed.
While Amazon claims that only a small percentage of customers are the victims of this vast spying operation, the true numbers are unknown. It seems that each professional listener monitors up to 1,000 recordings each day. Thus, the scope of this operation is vast and should be a concern to every American who cares about privacy and is worried about the power of big government.
Amazon claims that it does not act against customers even if evidence of criminal misconduct is heard by their teams of professional listeners. These specialists are not allowed to contact police or any law enforcement authority no matter what information is heard. However, it is conceivable to envision a future when these recordings are regularly shared with government officials. One day, a person’s private political beliefs may be discovered and may be determined to be unacceptable to government authorities.
Currently, the conversations are recorded and transcribed by Amazon employees for one main purpose, to use the information gathered to improve the capabilities of the Echo speakers. According to an Amazon representative, “this information helps us train our speech recognition and natural language understanding system, so Alexa can better understand your requests, and ensure the service works well for everyone.”
This rationale is ludicrous as a system that records and transcribes private conversations does not work “well for everyone.” According to a Daily Mail report, the Echo devices are so sensitive that Amazon employees are able to hear when customers are in the shower or when they are engaged in very confidential conversations.
Hopefully, this will be an issue addressed by Congress. While Amazon has every right to improve the capabilities of their devices, they should have no right to spy on customers and record their conversations. It is 2019, but if we don’t act, it will become 1984, an Orwellian hell where Big Brother reigns supreme.
Jeff Crouere is a native New Orleanian and his award winning program, “Ringside Politics,” airs locally at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and at 10:00 p.m. Sundays on PBS affiliate WLAE-TV, Channel 32, and from 7-11 a.m. weekdays on WGSO 990-AM & www.Wgso.com. He is a political columnist, the author of America's Last Chance and provides regular commentaries on the Jeff Crouere YouTube channel and on www.JeffCrouere.com. For more information, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org