Apr 11, 2019

Amazon employees listen to Echo users' interactions to train Alexa

Dave Limp, senior vice president of Amazon devices, announces the Echo Dot in 2018. Photo: Grant Hindsley/AFP/Getty Images

Amazon employees listen to, transcribe and annotate Echo users' interactions with the smart speaker in order to "eliminate gaps in Alexa’s understanding of human speech and help it better respond to commands," Bloomberg reports.

Why it matters: Alexa, Amazon's virtual assistant, may "live in the cloud," according to Amazon's advertisements, but this work highlights the vital role humans still play in training software algorithms for smart devices — and how many users might be unaware of such work.

The big question: "[T]he recordings ... don’t provide a user's full name and address but are associated with an account number, as well as the user's first name and the device’s serial number," according to Bloomberg.

How it works: The recordings from Echo users' homes and offices are parsed by a team of contractors and full-time Amazon employees who review up to 1,000 audio clips per day, operating under non-disclosure agreements that prevent them from speaking publicly on the work.

Go deeper: Amazon's plan for the next five years

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Coronavirus dashboard

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  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 5:45 p.m. ET: 5,763,122 — Total deaths: 358,235 — Total recoveries — 2,389,735Map.
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Minnesota activates National Guard amid fallout from George Floyd death

A portrait of George Floyd hangs on a street light pole in Minneapolis. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

George Floyd, 46, moved to Minnesota to improve his life and become his "best self," but instead, he is dead because of Minneapolis police.

The latest: Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz declared a state of emergency and activated the state's National Guard in response to violent clashes over the past two days between police and protesters in the Twin Cities.

Trump signs executive order targeting protections for social media platforms

President Trump signed an executive order on Thursday designed to limit the legal protections that shield social media companies from liability for the content users post on their platforms.

What they're saying: "Currently, social media giants like Twitter receive an unprecedented liability shield based on the theory that they are a neutral platform, which they are not," Trump said in the Oval Office. "We are fed up with it. It is unfair, and it's been very unfair."