In a virtual presentation ahead of the launch, Amazon executives emphasized the privacy controls behind the feature, including that speech samples are processed only on your phone — never in the cloud — and will be deleted automatically after processing. Amazon said no human will ever hear the voice samples — something it has come under fire for with its Alexa-powered devices — and users can delete Tone results or their entire voice profile from the app.
“All of these devices have risks, and are always going to have risks,” said Pam Dixon, executive director of the nonprofit research group World Privacy Forum, who helped advise Amazon on Halo, but was not paid by the company to do so, though the organization received funding from Amazon in the past. “All of the tech companies right now, their biggest fight is for the trust of people. … Ensuring that no one sees or hears this data ever is really important.”
Dr. Maulik Majmudar, a cardiologist and principal medical officer for Amazon Halo, billed the Tone feature as a way to better your communication and relationships, such as making sure you’re not taking work stress out on your family when working from home. “We recognize the sensitivity, so we put in a lot of privacy controls to earn and maintain customer trust around this feature,” he told CNN Business.
Last year, consumers were disturbed to find out that if they talk to a virtual assistant, such as Alexa or Apple’s Siri, a human may listen to a recording of their chatter. (The companies said this was done to improve the devices.) At the time, Apple temporarily halted human review of recordings, and Amazon changed its settings to make it easier for people to avoid such review at all.