Balancing Advanced AI Conversations and Data Privacy.

Balancing Advanced AI Conversations and Data Privacy.

The Gist

  • Tech advancements. Amazon is upgrading Alexa with generative AI for more human-like and intuitive interactions.
  • Data concerns. The new features raise further questions about Alexa’s data privacy and security measures.
  • Feature rollout. Upgrades are not yet live, but users can ask to be notified when new features are enabled.

In a move designed to make Alexa simpler and more intuitive for users, Amazon announced, at its annual Devices & Services Event this Wednesday, that it was upgrading its entire Alexa and Echo lines with generative AI. Amazon is adding new voice assistant features through the use of a custom-built large language model (LLM) that has been optimized for voice interactions.

This new, generative AI-enhanced Alexa, according to Amazon, will be able to have human-like conversations, and will have the ability to reason, understand intent and context, and continue conversations from where the user left off.

While the announcement has been met with excitement, others are apprehensive about what this means for data security. Since the release, there have been many concerns raised around platforms like Alexa, Google Assistant and others systems that have always-on listening capabilities.

The Amazon Alexa logo on phone screen held in the hand of a person in story about Generative AI upgrades to Alexa and Echo lines.
Amazon is upgrading its entire Alexa and Echo lines with generative AI. sdx15 on Adobe Stock Photos

Alexa Gets Conversational

After initializing the conversation mode by saying the phrase “Alexa, let’s chat,” users can have full-blown conversations with Alexa. The device will use its camera, the Alexa user’s visual ID, and its previously configured settings to determine when someone is speaking to it.

In the presentation at the Amazon Devices event, Amazon presented Alexa saying a sentence as it would have delivered it in 2014, and compared it with the upcoming 2024 AI-driven model. Not only was the pronunciation better, Alexa exhibited a wider change of expression in its voice that was much more natural and realistic. You can listen to this demonstration on Amazon’s blog page. Additionally, the upgraded Alexa will be connected to hundreds of thousands of real-world (IoT) devices and services via APIs.

Related Article: What Is Conversational AI? More Than Just Chatbots

Alexa and Data Privacy Issues

This isn’t the first time that Alexa has come under fire due to privacy issues. On Sept. 11, 2023, Fox News published an article about privacy concerns with Alexa, and stated that researchers from the University of Washington, University of California-Davis, University of California-Irvine and Northeastern University found that Amazon and third parties collect data from user interactions with Alexa through Echo smart speakers — and share that data with as many as 41 advertising partners.

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