Amazon’s Alexa Recorded and Shared a Family’s Private Conversation

Technology can be both “Boon and Bane”. The latest example of this quote is the Amazon Echo. The smart device from Amazon comes with amazing features such as automatic phone calls, manage your smart home, get cooking ideas, play the music of your choice, set an alarm, get news update and much more. Such advantageous features of Amazon Echo make it an irresistible product you would want for yourself. However, there is one family in the United States which has vowed to never use Amazon’s virtual assistant, Alexa again after it recorded their private conversation in their home and sent it to a random contact.

Danielle told that she received a call from an employee of her husband who asked them to disconnect their Echo devices that are using the Alexa software. The employee revealed that he had received an audio file in which he could hear what was happening in their home in Portland. The employee is lives in Seattle which is 282 kilometers away from Portland.

Danielle said, “I felt invaded, like total privacy invasion”. “I’m never plugging that device in again – I can’t trust it”.

Amazon Echo

When later Danielle contacted Amazon, one of the Alexa engineers confirmed that a conversation was recorded and sent to a contact without their consent. The engineer told her that Alexa had “guessed” what they were saying.

She said, “He apologized like 15 times in a matter of 30 minutes and said, ‘We really appreciate you bringing this to our attention, this is something we need to fix.”

While Amazon has called the incident an “extremely rare occurrence”, they have even issued a statement explaining the possible reason for the occurrence of the incident.

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 customers contact list. Alexa then asked out loud, ‘[contact name], right?’ Alexa then interpreted background conversation as ‘right’. As unlikely as this string of events is, we are evaluating options to make this case even less likely“.

Well, this has raised the customers’ concern regarding their privacy which makes it necessary for the Amazon and other virtual assistant product and service provider to sort the issue at the earliest.

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