Amazon Echo nightmare: private conversation sent to third party

Enlarge  A Google Home smart speaker

Amazon's Alexa has been caught recording the private conversation of a Portland-based coupled in the U.S., and then sending that recording to someone else in the family's contact list.

She said the incident happened two weeks ago when the employee called them to say she'd received a odd voice recording of them.

That's the explanation from Amazon, according to CNN, which quotes an Amazon spokesperson stating: "Echo woke up due to a word in background conversation sounding like "Alexa.' Then, the subsequent conversation was heard as a 'send message" request".

Although Amazon may claim the string of events was "unlikely", what was likely is that an always-on technology that constantly listens to everything in a room could intentionally or accidentally record a conversation without the permission of the user to begin with.

"I felt invaded", she said.

Despite Amazon emphasising that this is a rarity, DotWeekly reported of an incident not too dissimilar, in which Jamie Zoch describes his own experience of receiving another family's private Easter conversation through his Echo. The pair continued talking in the background and the Echo system interpreted part of the chat to identify a name in the couple's contact list.

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

The program activates by saying the word "Alexa", then a command, like "play music".




"I'm never plugging that device in again, because I can't trust it", she stressed.

In the above statement, Amazon blamed Alexa for misinterpreting the background conversation as commands given to the smart speaker.

One family is looking at their Amazon Alexa unit with a bit more caution after recent events.

The speaker later heard "send message" during the conversation, at which point the device asked, "to whom?" Danielle said they turned off their multiple Echo smart speakers, contacted Amazon and spoke to an Alexa engineer, who apologized multiple times. He also didn't explain why it could have happened.

To pause or resume, just say "Alexa, pause" or "Alexa, resume my book".

Amazon managed to confirm the goings on via logs of the Echo's actions, before determining that "this was an extremely rare occurrence". "We are taking steps to avoid this from happening in the future", the company said in a statement.

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.

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