Think twice before sharing medical secrets with Amazon’s Alexa, Florida’s CFO warns

Amid reports that Amazon employs thousands of people to listen to customers talk to their virtual personal assistant Alexa, Florida’s chief financial officer is warning residents to be careful what they say about their private health matters.

He also revealed steps Alexa owners might not realize they can take to protect themselves.

Bloomberg News last week reported that Amazon employees around the globe are listening to voice recordings captured in the homes of owners of its popular line of personal speaker, Echo. The recordings are transcribed and fed back into the device’s operating software to help it better understand human speech.

Occasionally workers hear possible evidence of crimes, including sexual assaults, the report stated. But Amazon says its employees have no way to track down the identities of the voices they hear.

Meanwhile, Amazon has announced that it’s developing ways that patients can one day use the Echo to communicate securely with health care providers and pharmacists.

Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis says customers should be wary about how secure their information actually is with Alexa in their house.

“How comfortable are you with a complete stranger listening to audio files from your home? That’s a reality with Amazon’s Alexa technology,” Patronis was quoted in a news release Monday as saying. “Although it’s built to make our lives easier and more productive, there are real privacy risks.”

Alexa owners should not only beef up privacy protections, they should also weigh the risks of sharing personal information, especially prescriptions or other medical information, Patronis said.