Former Amazon executive says he switches off Alexa for “private moments” – Blog – 10 minute

Why it matters: While smart speakers continue to make their way into more households, there’s increased concern that our recorded conversations could be heard by strangers. Those fears won’t be helped by the admission of a former Amazon executive, who says he turns off his Alexa smart speaker whenever he wants a “private moment”
Robert Fredrick, who was once a manager at Amazon Web Services, told the BBC’s Panorama program that he always turns off his Alexa speaker when discussing anything private or sensitive.
“I don’t want certain conversations to be heard by humans,” he said. “Conversations that I know for a fact are not things that should be shared then I turn off those particular listening devices.”
Alexa has been known to mishear wake words in conversations and start recording them without participants’ knowledge.

In April last year, it was reported that that Amazon employs thousands of contractors and full-time workers around the world to listen to voice recordings captured by Echo devices. The conversations were transcribed and annotated with the aim of improving the performance of digital assistant Alexa, helping the AI better understand human speech. Amazon said less than one percent of conversations are listened to by human staff, and the information is anonymized beforehand.
Following criticism of the annotation program, Amazon introduced an option that allows users to opt-out of human review of their voice recordings. You can also delete most of your transcripts stored on the company’s servers.
Fredrick wasn’t the only ex-Amazon worker with concerns over Alexa speakers. James Marcus, a senior editor at Amazon between 1996 to 2001, said: “I simply hate the idea of voluntarily putting a bug into my living room, and knowing that some schmo in Seattle might be listening to it on a headset.”
In response to the program, Amazon asked why Panorama would choose to question a former worker who left long before Alexa was created. “It is surprising that someone who left Amazon 14 years ago is being quoted, about a technology that was developed a decade after he left. His quotes do not accurately portray how Alexa works,” a spokesperson told The Sun.
“We take privacy very seriously at Amazon and designing Alexa was no different. Echo devices are designed to detect only your chosen wake word. No audio is stored or sent to the cloud unless the device detects the wake word. Customers can review and delete voice recordings at any time in the Alexa App, as well as, choose to have them automatically deleted every 3 or 18 months on an ongoing basis.”

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Amazon Echo Buds review: Alexa in your ear with Bose noise reduction | Technology – Blog – 10 minute

Amazon’s first attempt at a set of true wireless earbuds gets a lot right, with Bose active noise reduction technology and hands-free Alexa.
At £119.99, the Echo Buds undercut rivals, some of which cost more than twice as much. Their design is generic: large, kidney-shaped with a glossy touch panel on the outside and a standard silicone eartip on the inside.
The eartip supports the earbud with the majority of the rest of the body sitting outside the ear. But the earbuds are large and heavy at 7.6g each, meaning they sit proud of your ear. They started to hurt after 30 minutes.
Three sizes of silicone eartips are supplied along with three sizes of wings for securing the earbuds in place if needed, which I didn’t.

The Echo Buds look fairly generic with their black glossy touch panel on the outside. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
The touch panel on each supports two gestures on each earbud: double-tap or tap and hold. Each earbud can do different things, choosing from pause/play, track skip, activation of Alexa or Siri/Google Assistant, muting the microphones, activating active noise reduction or transparency modes, with or without pausing the music, which is great to have.
Taking one earbud out pauses the music too, which resumes when you put it back in. The only control that’s missing is volume, which you will have to adjust on your phone.
Activating the controls can be a mixed bag: sometimes they work as intended; at other points both gestures can take a few goes to register. You end up tapping harder and harder, which makes loud banging sounds in your ear. It’s also difficult to insert the earbuds without activating some sort of control.
Specifications

Water resistance: IPX4 (splash only)

Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, SBC, AAC

Battery life: 5 hours listening, up to 20 hours with case

Earbud weight: 7.6g

Earbud dimensions: 22 x 23 x 24 mm

Charging case dimensions: 57 x 77 x 29mm

Charging case weight: 70g

Case charging: microUSB

Sound and Active Noise Reduction

The Alexa app takes care of settings. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
The Echo Buds sound good for the money. They produce a decent amount of low end sound that doesn’t butcher the rest of the tones. Mids and highs come through clearly, separation of instruments is good and they have a fairly wide soundscape. Overall, they are an easy listen with a pleasing sound at low to medium volumes, but they do not produce the sort of sparkling audio that lets you hear new notes in your favourite pieces.
The Echo Buds have Bose active noise reduction (ANR) technology, which the firm says differs from its active noise cancelling (ANC) system by the level of noise it can deal with.
The Echo Buds do a good job of reducing the amount of background noise that leaks into your music. They managed to significantly reduce general road sounds while walking about London and the noise of commutes on trains. They perform slightly better than the Libratone Track Air+ but not quite as well as the AirPods Pro or the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700.
Another nice feature is the ability to pause the music, deactivate noise reduction and activate an ambient listening mode, which uses the microphones to pipe the sounds of the outside world into your ears – great for suddenly halting your music to listen to an announcement.
Alexa

The near side of the earbuds has a presence sensor, magnetic charging interface and the silicone ear tip. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
The other big feature is Alexa integration. You can choose to have the Echo Buds listen out for the “Alexa” wake word in the same way an Echo smart speaker might. Or you can manually activate Alexa with a gesture.
They work in mostly the same way as many other earbuds with similar functionality. Apple’s AirPods work with Siri in the same way, while many have similar Google Assistant integration.
Saying “Alexa” triggers Amazon’s voice assistant, which on the whole behaves the same as it does through an Echo smart speaker, including voice calls to other Echo devices, smart home control, access various skills and answer questions.
It can also perform basic actions on your phone, such as playing music from Spotify and adjusting the volume. As a phone-based assistant Alexa is OK but it’s not as good as Google Assistant for general management of your daily tasks (if you use Gmail etc) or Siri for integration into the iPhone.
I ended up switching Alexa to a button to invoke, rather than listening out for the wake word. If you don’t want to use Alexa you don’t have to – instead you can use the voice assistant built into your phone.
Call quality was good. Recipients said I came through loud and clear, beating many rival earbuds for clarity in quiet environments and dealing relatively well with background noise with just a slight echo. On my end of the call the option for sidetone was welcome but the earbuds let a lot of background noise into the call.
Battery life, case and charging

The fliptop case charges via microUSB, which is still common but the charger of the past rather than the current USB-C charging standard for phones, tablets and laptops. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
The Echo Buds offer nearly five hours of continuous playback with three complete recharges available from the case, making up to about 20 hours of battery life all in. A 15-minute trip in the case is enough to charge the earbuds for about two hours of playback.
The earbuds snap into place in the case using magnets and pin connectors. The case is a similar matt black plastic from which Amazon’s Fire tablets are made. It feels a little cheap despite being relatively robust. There’s a microUSB charging port on one side and a button for pairing on the bottom. It would have been better to use USB-C given most smartphones are now charged via the newer connector.
The case is fairly big and heavy compared to the best true wireless earbuds released in the last year, coming in at about twice the size of the AirPods Pro or Jabra Elite 75t cases. It’s still pocketable but not as convenient and easy to carry as smaller options. It could fit into only a large money pocket in one particular pair of jeans.
Ultimately disposable
Like most true wireless earbuds the Echo Buds and their case contain batteries that should last many years. However, they cannot be replaced, ultimately making them disposable. Amazon offers replacement earbuds outside of warranty for £59.
Amazon does not recycle electronic waste directly, instead it is a member of the WEEE distributor take back scheme in the UK.
Observations

The earbuds snap into place in the case on the metal contacts. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

An LED on the front of the case shows the charge of the earbuds (green >40%, yellow

Connection to an iPhone 11 Pro or OnePlus 7 Pro was rock solid

Each earbud can be used independently and hot-swapped

Price
The Amazon Echo Buds cost £119.99 in the UK or $129.99 in the US.
For comparison, Apple’s AirPods cost £159, the AirPods Pro cost £249, Jabra’s Elite 75t cost £170 and Sony’s WF-1000M3 cost £179.
Verdict
Amazon ticks a lot of boxes with the Echo Buds: they sound good for the money, have noise reduction technology from Bose and don’t break the bank.
They also have the option of full Alexa integration, including wake-word support – like a smart speaker in your ears – or you can turn off Amazon’s voice assistant. A four- to-five-hour battery is reasonable but not anywhere near class leading, while the case is of average size and function.
The biggest downsides are the size of the earbuds, which stick out quite far and were uncomfortable after extended listening, and controls that were unreliable sometimes. Like most other true wireless earbuds you can’t change the battery, so they are ultimately disposable too.
If you can overlook these niggles then the Echo Buds offer a lot of bang for your buck: their cost undercuts rivals while offering good sound and noise reduction.

Pros: Bose ANR, good sound, reasonable battery life, good ambient mode, Alexa integration, undercut rivals on price, solid connection, good call quality, can use either earbud independently
Cons: large in the ear, no aptX, controls can be unreliable at times, disposable, case a little bigger than rivals, microUSB charging socket

The button on the bottom of the case initiates Bluetooth pairing, but can also be pressed to show the current battery state of the case or buds via the LED on the front. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
Other reviews
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How to supercharge your Alexa skill- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Creating an Alexa Skill or Google Action has varying degrees of complexity. Complete a spreadsheet, click a few buttons and hey presto you have your first voice app. However, you’ll end up with the “default” skill experience, there are thousands of Google Action Quizzes which anyone can create with a spreadsheet, all very similar to each other.
So, how do you supercharge your Alexa Skill or Google Action to make it stand out? Here are a few of the techniques and features we use when building voice apps;
Use voice-over artists, rather than the synthesised voices
It can be good for voice apps with lots of content or dynamic elements to employ purely Alexa or Google synthesised voices. However, the default voice from Alexa and Google can lack character at times. In order to combat this, you can use SSML (Speech Synthesis Markup Language), tap into Alexa’s new emotions and speaking styles to add some character to responses, or look into Alexa Polly, which turns text into more lifelike speech, for instance allowing you to vary gender and tone.

Using a mix of voice-over artist with Alexa / Google synthesised

You might want to consider employing a mix between voice-over artists and synthesised voices in certain scenarios, for instance, for a game. For all static content use your voice-over artist and then ‘hand over’ to Alexa for any dynamic elements, allowing the ‘handover’ to act as part of the story in the app.

Using a voice-over artist for 100%

If your content is static and you’re not going to repeat anything the user says, then use a voice-over artist. Build your skill with text first for testing, before spending budget and effort in the recording studio.
Screen devices
There are the three main reasons to create graphics to supplement your Alexa Skill;

There are millions of Alexa devices which employ a tv screen, for example, the Fire Stick, the Fire TV cube and the new set of TVs that have Alexa built into them
The Alexa Show and Google Home Hub devices have a screen
Google Assistant is on all Android phones version 5.0 above

To enable images and video interaction into your voice skill, you can use APL (Alexa Presentation Language) for Alexa. This area of the industry is moving quickly, with Alexa Web API for Games stepping the game up a notch by allowing users to create visually rich content that runs off of traditional web tech. Google are also moving that way with their Interactive Canvas setup.
The negative of screen devices, is that it adds more design, development and testing time to your project.
If you have a skill already, look at your analytics which can track which types of devices have screens. In the meantime, use some of the template APL and image backgrounds on Google to give some elements of customisation.
Use data to customise the experience
There are several data points from the customer’s device you can use to make your conversations dynamic and personalised.

Username: you can then address your user “Hi, John”, “well done John, you answered.”
Tempemail: when appropriate you can email the user.
Address / location:use the location to change tone, slang or data e.g. “your nearest store is…”
Distance and temperature:do your users prefer Fahrenheit or Celsius? Change your content according to their preferences.

For the above, check documentation on what requires permissions to ask the user, make sure it’s a onetime ask so you remember the settings for the users next visit.
Combine time of day and the user’s history to vary copy
In the same way you would say good morning, evening and good night to people in everyday conversations, your voice app should follow this custom. You should then combine this with the history of the user – are they opening the app for the first time, are they a frequent user or a lapsed user.
Combining these two things for example, with just using eight variants, means you gain twelve variations on how your voice app opens, as seen below.

New

Regular

Daily User

Lapsed

Morning

Good morning, welcome to the quiz

Morning, let’s go, here is question one

Morning, good to see you again

Morning, nice to see you again, it’s been a while, here’s a reminder of the rules

Afternoon

Good afternoon, welcome to the quiz

Afternoon to you, let’s go, here is question one

Afternoon, nice to see you back again

Afternoon, welcome back, do you need a reminder of the rules?

Evening

Good evening, welcome to the quiz

Evening, let’s go, here is question one

Evening, it’s great to you have you back

Good evening, do you require a reminder of the rules?

All of above can be done using code, it doesn’t require asking the user any questions. For example, asking them if it’s morning or afternoon or evening. Further expansion on this is possible using days of the week, taking important days for example public holidays, Valentine’s Day Christmas etc. can all be utilised to vary up the conversation.
The elements listed above should be seen as additional features to the core functionality of your voice apps. Such additional items can fall flat if the foundations of your app are not tight – design, handling errors and rigorous testing’s are essential. However, once you have those elements in place you can then look to start to supercharge your skill.
John Campbell, managing director and co-founder, Rabbit & Pork

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Travel supplement: Alexa, pack my bags- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

The travel industry has earned an undesirable reputation for being a tad reserved when it comes to investment in new technologies and innovation. Tight margins and old habits mean that travel companies are rarely heralded for their marketing and tech efforts and when they are, it tends to be for work on more traditional channels.
Some brands are realising that it pays to be ahead of the curve. Take Contiki for example. The tour specialists that serves 18 – 35 year olds recognised an opportunity to create a bespoke Alexa voice skill to help their customers pack for their holidays. The ‘Pack My Bags’ skill was unveiled at World Travel Market 2019 and has been praised for being the first of its kind in the industry.
Contiki is certainly not alone in the use of voice as a new sales and marketing channel. Large travel brands have also dipped a toe into the fresh waters of Alexa. Budget airlines RyanAir and Easyjet have both created Alexa skills to aid passengers with flight information, while you can also find city guides, translation apps, and navigational help. However, these skills remain rudimentary and are viewed as gimmicky in the wider Alexa user community.
A recent report by Strategy Analytics asserted that smart speakers are now in 20% of UK households. Elsewhere, eMarketer estimates that this year, 111.8 million people in the US will use a voice assistant at least monthly, over a third of the country’s population. With such rapid and impressive voice assistant adoption figures, voice experiences look like they are here to stay. As brands move forward, greater investment in voice appears inevitable.
So with voice still in its infancy in the travel world, where is this technology headed?
Your virtual travel agent
It is important to remember that voice assistants are not confined to a specific device – such as smart speakers – but instead are an entire User Interface. This means the potential for accommodation and transport providers to use voice are practically endless. The use of voice could potentially join you on your entire travel experience, from booking to destination, and post-holiday too.
It is a well-known fact that consumers want information quickly, and they increasingly want information that is relevant to them. Voice offers the opportunity to provide consumers with both. As users grow more comfortable with voice technology, travel companies could look to voice as a new booking platform.
Imagine being able to converse with a voice assistant like you would with a travel agent, informing it of all your personal preferences and adventurous ambitions and in return receiving the perfect package holiday without the (sometimes) exorbitant commissions added on.
For businesses in the travel sector, this presents an entirely new revenue stream and a tool to decrease costs. With an ever-growing demand for assistance along every part of the customer journey, voice assistants will also allow businesses to deploy their resources and employees more effectively and use voice as a first line of enquiry.
Alexa, come fly with me
Smart speakers are beginning to pop-up in hotel rooms across the globe. This year, Angie Hospitality began deploying their interactive voice assistant Angie in hotel rooms across Australia. The functions remain similar to those offered in smart homes with features including switching on the TV, adjusting light settings, and syncing mobile devices. However, the potential to leverage this technology for better more personalised travel experience is constantly expanding. As the AI of voice assistants improves, in-room helpers like Angie could welcome you to your room, remember your room service order preferences and help you book your favourite tours and attractions.
Taking to the streets in unfamiliar surroundings can be daunting and intimidating. Not knowing where to go or how to speak the language can create barriers to travel that put off those without a strong wanderlust. Interactive voice-activated tour guides could help break down these hurdles. With access to the right data, a voice assistant could recommend where to eat based on your taste preferences, provide you with directions to the restaurant, and translate your order into the local lingo like a digital Passepartout.
In this sense, voice assistants could transcend the line between technology and companionship, providing the confidence needed by more nervous travellers and enhancing the experience for those more hardy adventurers. Google Assistant has already made some strides toward this technology with the release of the Pixel Buds, which use built-in Google Assistant to translate languages at the touch of a button. However, the technology still has some way to go before reaching the levels of sophistication to ensure a totally seamless and personalised experienced.
Erasing borders through voice
But even the internet had its doubters. Emerging technologies will always attract scepticism, but if voice AI is able to learn and adopt your own tone of voice, emotions, even your personal history, it could become the dominant technology for generations to come. In a world where machines could process your every word and accurately translate it into another language, the world suddenly becomes a far more accessible and open place.
On a less grandiose scale, voice has the potential to disrupt and advance all aspects of the travel industry, bringing benefits to consumers and businesses alike. So, what are we waiting for? Alexa, pack my bags!
Ramsey Marwan, marketing manager at FX Digital.

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Alexa, pack my bags | Tempemail- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Only a few years ago, the idea of a universal translator was confined to science fiction. Now, Ramsey Marwan, marketing manager of FX Digital, argues that it’s on the cusp of revolutionising how we interact with other cultures.
The travel industry has earned an undesirable reputation for being a tad reserved when it comes to investment in new technologies and innovation. Tight margins and old habits mean that travel companies are rarely heralded for their marketing and tech efforts and when they are, it tends to be for work on more traditional channels.
Some brands are realising that it pays to be ahead of the curve. Take Contiki for example. The tour specialists that serves 18 – 35 year olds recognised an opportunity to create a bespoke Alexa voice skill to help their customers pack for their holidays. The ‘Pack My Bags’ skill was unveiled at World Travel Market 2019 and has been praised for being the first of its kind in the industry.
Contiki is certainly not alone in the use of voice as a new sales and marketing channel. Large travel brands have also dipped a toe into the fresh waters of Alexa. Budget airlines RyanAir and Easyjet have both created Alexa skills to aid passengers with flight information, while you can also find city guides, translation apps, and navigational help. However, these skills remain rudimentary and are viewed as gimmicky in the wider Alexa user community.
A recent report by Strategy Analytics asserted that smart speakers are now in 20% of UK households. Elsewhere, eMarketer estimates that this year, 111.8 million people in the US will use a voice assistant at least monthly, over a third of the country’s population. With such rapid and impressive voice assistant adoption figures, voice experiences look like they are here to stay. As brands move forward, greater investment in voice appears inevitable.
So with voice still in its infancy in the travel world, where is this technology headed?
Your virtual travel agent
It is important to remember that voice assistants are not confined to a specific device – such as smart speakers – but instead are an entire User Interface. This means the potential for accommodation and transport providers to use voice are practically endless. The use of voice could potentially join you on your entire travel experience, from booking to destination, and post-holiday too.
It is a well-known fact that consumers want information quickly, and they increasingly want information that is relevant to them. Voice offers the opportunity to provide consumers with both. As users grow more comfortable with voice technology, travel companies could look to voice as a new booking platform.
Imagine being able to converse with a voice assistant like you would with a travel agent, informing it of all your personal preferences and adventurous ambitions and in return receiving the perfect package holiday without the (sometimes) exorbitant commissions added on.
For businesses in the travel sector, this presents an entirely new revenue stream and a tool to decrease costs. With an ever-growing demand for assistance along every part of the customer journey, voice assistants will also allow businesses to deploy their resources and employees more effectively and use voice as a first line of enquiry.
Alexa, come fly with me
Smart speakers are beginning to pop-up in hotel rooms across the globe. This year, Angie Hospitality began deploying their interactive voice assistant Angie in hotel rooms across Australia. The functions remain similar to those offered in smart homes with features including switching on the TV, adjusting light settings, and syncing mobile devices. However, the potential to leverage this technology for better more personalised travel experience is constantly expanding. As the AI of voice assistants improves, in-room helpers like Angie could welcome you to your room, remember your room service order preferences and help you book your favourite tours and attractions.
Taking to the streets in unfamiliar surroundings can be daunting and intimidating. Not knowing where to go or how to speak the language can create barriers to travel that put off those without a strong wanderlust. Interactive voice-activated tour guides could help break down these hurdles. With access to the right data, a voice assistant could recommend where to eat based on your taste preferences, provide you with directions to the restaurant, and translate your order into the local lingo like a digital Passepartout.
In this sense, voice assistants could transcend the line between technology and companionship, providing the confidence needed by more nervous travellers and enhancing the experience for those more hardy adventurers. Google Assistant has already made some strides toward this technology with the release of the Pixel Buds, which use built-in Google Assistant to translate languages at the touch of a button. However, the technology still has some way to go before reaching the levels of sophistication to ensure a totally seamless and personalised experienced.
Erasing borders through voice
But even the internet had its doubters. Emerging technologies will always attract scepticism, but if voice AI is able to learn and adopt your own tone of voice, emotions, even your personal history, it could become the dominant technology for generations to come. In a world where machines could process your every word and accurately translate it into another language, the world suddenly becomes a far more accessible and open place.
On a less grandiose scale, voice has the potential to disrupt and advance all aspects of the travel industry, bringing benefits to consumers and businesses alike. So, what are we waiting for? Alexa, pack my bags!
This article was first published in Tempemail Network’s print supplement. Members of Tempemail Network receive and have the opportunity to write for our print magazine, which is distributed to other relevant members and brands in print and on our app.

Tempemail , Tempmail Temp email addressess (10 minutes emails)– When you want to create account on some forum or social media, like Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, TikTok you have to enter information about your e-mail box to get an activation link. Unfortunately, after registration, this social media sends you dozens of messages with useless information, which you are not interested in. To avoid that, visit this Temp mail generator: tempemail.co and you will have a Temp mail disposable address and end up on a bunch of spam lists. This email will expire after 10 minute so you can call this Temp mail 10 minute email. Our service is free! Let’s enjoy!

Fitbit Announces Versa 2 Smartwatch With Alexa


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Fitbit scooped up the remains of fan-favorite smartwatch maker Pebble several years ago, using that expertise to launch its own line of smartwatches. The Ionic came first, and then the smaller, cheaper Versa. Now, Fitbit is back with a second-gen smartwatch, a followup to the Versa predictably called Versa 2. The design is cleaner and more refined, and there’s support for voice commands via Amazon Alexa. It’ll also support Fitbit’s new paid subscription fitness service. 

The Ionic and Versa both focused on fitness and health tracking functionality, as you’d expect from a company like Fitbit. However, they brought some enhanced features that set them apart from the company’s watch-like fitness trackers including apps, custom clock faces, and smartphone notification management. 

The Versa 2SEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce looks similar to the first-gen Versa, but there’s only one physical button on the side — the shortcut keys on the right edge are gone. The shape of the watch is also a bit more round and similar to the Apple Watch. The original Versa was already very similar to the Apple Watch, so the Versa 2 might be completely indistinguishable from a distance. 

Instead of the shortcut buttons, the right edge of the Versa 2 has a microphone. You can launch Alexa on the watch by pressing and holding the remaining side button. After linking your Alexa profile, you can get basic search results, control smart home devices, manage timers, and more. However, you won’t hear Alexa reply to your commands — the Versa 2 doesn’t have a speaker. That would have made it harder to water-proof. With the new microphone, the watch maintains its 50m submersion rating. 

All versions of the Versa 2 will have NFC for Fitbit Pay; only special edition versions of the original Versa had that. It will also support Fitbit’s new Sleep Score feature, which uses your activity throughout the day to determine how much sleep you need. It’s sort of like grading your sleep on a curve. However, the watch still lacks GPS, just like the previous Versa. 

The Versa 2 is available for pre-order today, starting at $200. That might be just a drop in the bucket if you also buy into Fitbit’s new monthly service. The Fitbit Premium service costs $10 per month and launches in 2020. Fitbit Premium features personalized health coaching, one-on-one training guidance, premium challenges, and more. If you buy the $230 special edition Versa 2, it comes with a 90-day trial of Fitbit Premium.

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Bose’s new portable home speaker sports Alexa and Google Assistant – gpgmail


Bose’s portable speaker offerings have tended toward the cheaper end of the spectrum — bringing colorful competition for companies like JBL. With the dryly named Portable Home Speaker, however, the company looks to split the difference between portable and premium. And it’s certainly priced for the latter.

The $349 speaker looks to something of a high end take on the dearly departed Amazon Tap. It’s pretty small for the price, with a large handle up top so it can be moved from room to room, accordingly.

Bose continues to take the diplomatic approach, using built in mics for both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. There’s also AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect functionality built in, covering pretty much all of its bases outside of Bixby — that means, sadly, that it might not be able to talk to your fridge.

There are a handful of physical buttons up top, as well, including the every important mic-off. The device has an IPX4 water rating, which means it will handle some splashing or light rain, but don’t dunk the thing. It’s also pretty clear from the press materials that the speaker’s not designed to live outdoors, though the occasional picnic table should be fine.

The Portable Home Speaker arrives in stores on September 19. It’s already got plenty of competition, of course, and Sonos is set to add to the list with its own bluetooth speaker rumored to be in the works.


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Amazon’s lead EU data regulator is asking questions about Alexa privacy – gpgmail


Amazon’s lead data regulator in Europe, Luxembourg’s National Commission for Data Protection, has raised privacy concerns about its use of manual human reviews of Alexa AI voice assistant recordings.

A spokesman for the regulator confirmed in an email to gpgmail it is discussing the matter with Amazon, adding: “At this stage, we cannot comment further about this case as we are bound by the obligation of professional secrecy.” The development was reported earlier by Reuters.

We’ve reached out to Amazon for comment.

Amazon’s Alexa voice AI, which is embedded in a wide array of hardware — from the company’s own brand Echo smart speaker line to an assortment of third party devices (such as this talkative refrigerator or this oddball table lamp) — listens pervasively for a trigger word which activates a recording function, enabling it to stream audio data to the cloud for processing and storage.

However trigger-word activated voice AIs have been shown to be prone to accidental activation. While a device may be being used in a multi-person household. So there’s always a risk of these devices recording any audio in their vicinity, not just intentional voice queries…

In a nutshell, the AIs’ inability to distinguish between intentional interactions and stuff they overhear means they are natively prone to eavesdropping — hence the major privacy concerns.

These concerns have been dialled up by recent revelations that tech giants — including Amazon, Apple and Google — use human workers to manually review a proportion of audio snippets captured by their voice AIs, typically for quality purposes. Such as to try to improve the performance of voice recognition across different accents or environments. But that means actual humans are listening to what might be highly sensitive personal data.

Earlier this week Amazon quietly added an option to the settings of the Alexa smartphone app to allow users to opt out of their audio snippets being added to a pool that may be manually reviewed by people doing quality control work for Amazon — having not previously informed Alexa users of its human review program.

The policy shift followed rising attention on the privacy of voice AI users — especially in Europe.

Last month thousands of recordings of users of Google’s AI assistant were leaked to the Belgian media which was able to identify some of the people in the clips.

A data protection watchdog in Germany subsequently ordered Google to halt manual reviews of audio snippets.

Google responded by suspending human reviews across Europe. While its lead data watchdog in Europe, the Irish DPC, told us it’s “examining” the issue.

Separately, in recent days, Apple has also suspended human reviews of Siri snippets — doing so globally, in its case — after a contractor raised privacy concerns in the UK press over what Apple contractors are privy to when reviewing Siri audio.

The Hamburg data protection agency which intervened to halt human reviews of Google Assistant snippets urged its fellow EU privacy watchdogs to prioritize checks on other providers of language assistance systems — and “implement appropriate measures” — naming both Apple and Amazon.

In the case of Amazon, scrutiny from European watchdogs looks to be fast dialling up.

At the time of writing it is the only one of the three tech giants not to have suspended human reviews of voice AI snippets, either regionally or globally.

In a statement provided to the press at the time it changed Alexa settings to offer users an opt-out from the chance of their audio being manually reviewed, Amazon said:

We take customer privacy seriously and continuously review our practices and procedures. For Alexa, we already offer customers the ability to opt-out of having their voice recordings used to help develop new Alexa features. The voice recordings from customers who use this opt-out are also excluded from our supervised learning workflows that involve manual review of an extremely small sample of Alexa requests. We’ll also be updating information we provide to customers to make our practices more clear.


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Amazon quietly adds ‘no human review’ option to Alexa settings as voice AIs face privacy scrutiny – gpgmail


Amazon has tweaked the settings for its Alexa voice AI to allow users to opt out of their voice recordings being manually reviewed by the company’s human workers.

The policy shift took effect Friday, according to Bloomberg, which reports that Alexa users will now find an option in the settings menu of the Alexa smartphone app to disable human review of their clips.

The Alexa T&C did not previously inform users of the possibility that audio recordings captured by the service might be manually reviewed by actual humans. (Amazon still doesn’t appear to provide this disclosure on its main website either.)

But the Alexa app now includes a disclaimer in the settings menu that flags the fact human ears may in fact be listening, per the report.

This disclosure appears only to surface if users go digging into the settings menu.

Bloomberg says users must tap ‘Settings’ > ‘Alexa Privacy’ > ‘Manage How Your Data Improves Alexa’ before they see the following text: “With this setting on, your voice recordings may be used to develop new features and manually reviewed to help improve our services. Only an extremely small fraction of voice recordings are manually reviewed.”

The policy tweak comes as regulators are dialling up attention on the privacy risks posed by voice AI technologies.

This week it emerged that Google was ordered by a German data protection watchdog to halt manual reviews of audio snippets generated by its voice AI, after thousands of recordings were leaked to the Belgian media last month which was able to identify some of the people in the clips.

Google has suspended reviews across the whole of Europe while it liaises with EU privacy regulators.

In a statement on its website the Hamburg privacy watchdog raised concerns about other operators of voice AIs, urging EU regulators to make checks on providers such as Amazon and Apple — and “implement appropriate measures”.

Coincidentally (or not) Apple also suspended human reviews of Siri snippets this week — globally, in its case — following privacy concerns raised by a recent UK media report. The Guardian newspaper quoted a whistleblower claiming contractors regularly hearing confidential personal data captured by Siri.

While Google and Apple have entirely suspended human reviews of audio snippets (at least temporarily), Amazon has not gone so far.

Nor does it automatically opt users out. The policy change just lets users disable reviews — which requires consumers to both understand the risk and act to safeguard their privacy.

Amazon’s disclosure of the existence of human reviews is also currently buried deep in the settings, rather than being actively conveyed to users.

It’s not clear whether any of this will wash with regulators in Europe. 

Bloomberg reports that Amazon declined to comment on whether it had been contacted by regulators about the Alexa recordings review program, saying only: “We take customer privacy seriously and continuously review our practices and procedures We’ll also be updating information we provide to customers to make our practices more clear.”

We reached out to Amazon with questions but at the time of writing a spokesperson was not available.


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