Published: Fri, May 25, 2018
IT | By Jonathon Greene

Worst nightmare of Amazon Alexa customer comes true

Worst nightmare of Amazon Alexa customer comes true

What happened is that a Portland, Oregon family-owned Amazon Echo recorded their conversation and sent it to one of their contacts. Amazon's voice assistant can play music, set timers, order a pizza, and send recordings of private conversations to random people in its users' contact list.

"As unlikely as this string of events is, we are evaluating options to make this case even less likely", they added.

Seattle's KIRO 7 radio station first reported on the woman's story.

The woman called Amazon to complain, and the company apologized for the mistake, saying it takes privacy concerns very seriously.

Amazon and rivals Apple, Google and Sonos have been pushing to integrate voice technology into all kinds of devices in the home, from speakers to cameras, thermostats and doorbells. But from what the woman told KIRO, it seems she and her husband didn't hear those questions. She felt "invaded," describing the Alexa blunder as "a total privacy invasion". Initially, the problem spawned thoughts of someone hacking into her system, with the employee suggesting she unplug her device before digging deeper. Amazon has explained why the conversation was picked up by the voice-controlled Echo speaker and send it to the husband's employee 176 miles away. According to Amazon spokesperson, the Echo Dot woke up due to a word in background conversation which sounded like Alexa.

She called Amazon repeatedly.

"At which point, Alexa said out loud 'To whom?' At which point, the background conversation was interpreted as a name in the customer's contact list". Only then is Alexa supposed to follow your commands, and send messages to others, if that's an ability you have activated on your Echo smart speakers.

Amazon and Google say their speakers are created to record audio only when activated with a trigger word, such as "Alexa" or "Hey Google".

She said the pair had unplugged all Echo devices that they relied on to control heating, lights and security at home. The engineer confirmed that Danielle's Alexa was hacked, as seen in her device's logs. "We are taking steps to avoid this from happening in the future", the company said in a statement.

This ensures the listening possibilities are "practically endless with an Audible membership", with more about listening to Audible with Alexa available here.

The company has since asked Danielle if she and her husband wanted to disable the Alexa communication by putting it into a "de-provisioned" mode.

However, Alexa's integration into society has been rocked by the claims of a family from Portland in the United States saying a private conversation was recorded by the diminutive device.

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