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Amazon Alexa employees can pinpoint customers' home addresses

Olivia Feld
Amazon sells a number of smart speakers made with Alexa technology - Bloomberg

Amazon employees are able to pinpoint the addresses of Alexa users using precise location data, it has emerged.

Staff in Romania, India, Costa Rica and the US have access to the geographic coordinates of devices that include the Alexa virtual assistant, which can be easily used to locate a user's home address.

The company had denied that its employees could access any identifiable data on its users earlier this month when it emerged that staff are able to listen to Alexa recordings.

The revelations, disclosed by Bloomberg, will raise more privacy questions over the rise of household "smart speakers", which Amazon is the market leader in.

A spokesperson for Amazon said: “Access to 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.

“Our policies strictly prohibit employee access to or use of customer data for any other reason, and we have a zero tolerance policy for abuse of our systems. We regularly audit employee access to internal tools and limit access whenever and wherever possible.”

The devices use geolocation data so users can perform functions such as checking the local weather forecast or locating services such as the nearest restaurants.

Amazon said the programme was established to help improve responses to commands. It added that employees did not have direct access to identifiable user information.

The company has the ability to listen to audio from all of its Echo devices including millions of households in the UK that use Alexa speakers.

Privacy advocates have raised concerns about smart home devices and their ability to listen and record personal data inside the home. 

Amazon’s terms and conditions for Alexa states that it uses human reviews to listen to a limited number of recordings to improve the user experience.