Amazon’s Alexa Sent Private Conversation to a Random Contact

Amazon is encouraging us to put listening devices in every room of the house with executives from Amazon saying that Echo assistants don’t listen to private conversations, they say the device will start listening to conversations only if the word Alexa was used, this is not always the case as a story from a user in Portland highlights.

An Alexa user from Portland, Oregon has installed Echo and Smart bulbs in every room of their house thinking that nothing bad will happen, however when asking Amazon to investigate an issue about Alexa recording a private conversation between her and her husband that was sent to a random number in her address book without her consent. Danielle found out this by receiving a call from her co-worker saying:

“Unplug your Alexa devices right now, you’re being hacked.”

She didn’t believe her friend at first, however when her he explained the conversation between her husband she finally believed them. “You sat there talking about hardwood floors.” Danielle realised the colleague must have heard everything.

“I felt invaded,” she told KIRO-TV. “A total privacy invasion. Immediately, I said, ‘I’m never plugging that device in again because I can’t trust it.’”

When Danielle contacted customer support they investigated the issue and confirmed that Alexa has indeed made the call without the consent of the user and also apologised for the inconvenience caused by the smart device. A spokesperson for the company said it had “determined this was an extremely rare occurrence”.

Amazon has said that the message sent due to an unlikely string of events happened in a row which is the most unlikely case.

“Echo woke up due to a word in background conversation sounding like ‘Alexa’. Then, the subsequent conversation was heard as a ‘send message’ request. 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. Alexa then asked out loud, ‘[contact name], right?’ Alexa then interpreted background conversation as ‘right’.”

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