Amazon employees ‘watch home security footage from Cloud Cams including video of owners having sex’
- Employees in India and Romania allegedly annotate footage to improve AI
- The company denies it is taken without people’s consent or knowledge
- But insiders say they have seen intimate footage and process hundreds of clips
Amazon employees are reportedly watching video taken from inside people’s homes on the tech giant’s Cloud Cam and have even seen customers having sex.
The security camera, which links up to the Alexa voice assistant, allows people keep an eye on what’s happening in their home 24/7.
But, according to anonymous insiders, human workers at the company are watching up to 150 20 to 30 second clips per day, some of which are intended to be private.
In some instances, the employees said, staff are faced with footage of intimate moments inside people’s houses.
The company insists footage is only reviewed if it’s sent in voluntarily because of a problem and that customers are ‘in control’ of their videos.
Amazon’s Cloud Cam is not available in the UK but costs customers less than $120 in the US and can be used to keep track of what’s happening in their homes 24 hours a day
Dozens of employees in Romania and India are involved in the reviewing of the videos, according to Bloomberg.
They review them to try and help train the Cloud Cam’s artificial intelligence to spot the difference between genuine threats and normal happenings in the house.
The employees would annotate the videos to help a computer identify what is going on and to differentiate a burglar from a pet, for example.
Amazon told Bloomberg all the clips came from employees who agreed to test the software and from customers who had sent them for troubleshooting.
But Cloud Cam owners are not warned in terms and conditions about the fact their videos might be watched by actual people, the news site reported.
Bloomberg reports that Cloud Cam customers are not warned in their terms and conditions that footage from their cameras could be watched by human employees
And, often, the clips didn’t have anything obviously wrong with them which would have warranted being examined.
The employees tasked with watching these videos have to work in secured offices where they aren’t allowed to take their mobile phones, one said.
Cloud Cam is not available to buyers in the UK but, for those in the US, its full price is $119.99 (£98).
It films in 1080p HD and can be watched live or ‘motion alert’ footage from the past 24 hours can be watched for free.
The technology hooks up to Alexa smart speakers, Amazon Fire TV and other products owned by the company.
The man who runs Amazon’s Alexa team has said making it clear how people’s data would be used to develop AI would be one thing he would change if he could go do it again.
David Limp, vice-president of the eBook service Kindle, said: ‘If I could go back in time, that would be the thing I would do better.
‘I would have been more transparent about why and when we are using human annotation.’
An Amazon spokesperson said: ‘We take privacy seriously and put Cloud Cam customers in control of their video clips.
‘Only customers can view their clips, and they can delete them at any time by visiting the Manage My Content and Devices page.
‘Using the “feedback” option in the Cloud Cam app, customers are able to share a specific clip with Amazon to improve the service.
‘When a customer chooses to share a clip, it may get annotated and used for supervised learning to improve the accuracy of Cloud Cam’s computer vision systems.
‘For example, supervised learning helps Cloud Cam better distinguish different types of motion so we can provide more accurate alerts to customers.’
WHY ARE PEOPLE CONCERNED OVER PRIVACY WITH AMAZON’S ALEXA DEVICES?
Amazon devices have previously been activated when they’re not wanted – meaning the devices could be listening.
Millions are reluctant to invite the devices and their powerful microphones into their homes out of concern that their conversations are being heard.
Amazon devices rely on microphones listening out for a key word, which can be triggered by accident and without their owner’s realisation.
The camera on the £119.99 ($129) Echo Spot, which doubles up as a ‘smart alarm’, will also probably be facing directly at the user’s bed.
The device has such sophisticated microphones it can hear people talking from across the room – even if music is playing.
Last month a hack by British security researcher Mark Barnes saw 2015 and 2016 versions of the Echo turned into a live microphone.
Fraudsters could then use this live audio feed to collect sensitive information from the device.