Amazon Alexa will soon record EVERYTHING you say rather than wait to hear its name first, new patent reveals
Alexa‘s poor reputation for privacy may soon worsen as a patent filed by the firm suggests the virtual assistant may start listening before its ‘wake word‘ is said.
Under the plans Alexa will be able to detect when it is being given a command even if the wake word is said at the end of the sentence instead of at the front.
The move raises concerns over user privacy as Alexa will, by default, always be listening to conversations on the off-chance its wakeword is spoken.
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The , filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office , reveals the Seattle-fimrs plans for the next evolutionary step for it Alexa‘s technology.
Amazon insists Alexa can only be activated when one of its ‘wake word‘ is uttered – either Alexa, Computer or Echo.
Rival systems from Apple and Google use a similar process, which requires ‘Hey Siri‘ or ‘Hey Google‘ respectively to be said before listening.
This will be set to change if Amazon decides to follow up on its patent.
It was filed earlier this year and went public last week on the USPTO website.
It states: ‘A user may not always structure a spoken command in the form of a wake word followed by a command (eg. ‘Alexa, play some music‘).
‘Instead, a user may include the command before the wake word – eg. “Play some music, Alexa” – or even insert the wake word in the middle of a command – eg. “Play some music, Alexa, the Beatles please”.
‘While such phrasings may be natural for a user, current speech processing systems are not configured to handle commands that are not preceded by a wake word.‘
Amazon declined to comment when approached by MailOnline.
HOW DOES ALEXA WORK?
Any time audio is sent to the cloud, a visual indicator appears on the Echo device – a light ring on Amazon Echo will turn blue or a blue bar will appear on Echo Show.
Amazon also says that voice recordings are kept until a customer chooses to delete them.
The recordings are used to increase the diversity with which Alexa is trained to help it better understand customer requests.
For example, differentiating between YouTube and U2 and using historical context, such as the Olympics, to know what the user is referring to.
Amazon maintains the deice is not activated until the wake word is said: this can be configured to be Alexa, Echo or Computer.
It also records when the microphone button is manually pressed.
The new method Alexa will use to backtrack when it hears the wake word is relatively simple – listen to everything and detect the command using the same speech recognition it uses currently.
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Snippets of conversation up to 30 seconds long would be recorded and then wiped from the had-drive, the patent states.
There is also no indication that this patent will never come to fruition, firms the size of Amazon regularly file a range of ideas and technology to protect themselves.
Often, they never see the light of day.
If Alexa detects its wake word in one of these recordings it will save it in the same way it currently does.
This procedure is already flawed, as revealed in a MailOnline investigation which found some ‘unintentional‘ snippets of conversation were being recorded when it mistakes another noise for a ‘wake word‘.
A host of sounds and conversations were recorded without a clear or legitimate wake word being uttered – some when there was not even a human nearby.
Largely unknown ‘secret‘ archives revealed eerie snippets of users‘ friends, families and children being recorded while they were completely unaware – and without a clear or legitimate wake word being uttered.
In one household, Alexa seems to have developed an obsession with the family dog – waking up 13 times to record it barking.
In a worrying twist, this was often when there was no one in the house who could possibly have ordered it to activate.
You can find out what your device knows about you and what it has been listening to and read on to see what we unearthed.
HOW TO FIND OUT WHAT YOUR ALEXA HAS RECORDED ABOUT YOU?
Open the Alexa app which the devices are synced to or go to this .
Select the icon in the top left corner – often dubbed the ‘hamburger‘
Press ‘Settings‘ at the bottom of the menu
Select ‘Alexa Account‘ located at the top of the menu
Press ‘Alexa Privacy‘ at the bottom of the menu
In this section a range of options will appear in a different looking menu – select ‘Review Voice History‘
Here all the entries of all Alexa-enabled devices attached to an account will be listed in reverse order, with the most recent at the top.
To view all entries, select the ‘All History‘ option from the drop down menu and scroll through the pages.
It will show all entries and those that it claims were recorded but not meant to be for Alexa are not transcribed, instead it reads ‘Text not available – audio was not intended for Alexa‘.
These can still be listened to by selecting the drop down arrow on the right hand side and pressing play – locate don the left.
For users who want to remove all trace of these recordings – pressing the ‘Delete All recordings for All History‘ button will do so.
There is currently no way of saving the data yourself and taking it off Amazon‘s servers.