Saturday, 24 August, 2019

This family's Echo sent a private conversation to a random contact

Amazon said in a statement that the Echo woke up when it heard a word that sounded like SUPPLIED Amazon said in a statement that the Echo woke up when it heard a word that sounded like"Alexa
Emmett Howard | 25 May, 2018, 22:14

In a statement Thursday, Amazon confirmed the woman's private conversation had been inadvertently recorded and sent.

The employee told her he had received audio files of Danielle's conversations with her husband, about things like hardwood floors, that the couple remembered having inside their home.

Many smart speaker owners wonder if their private conversations are being recorded by the virtual personal assistant on their devices.

She said she unplugged all of the devices after receiving the call from the Seattle acquaintance. "I felt invaded", one of the family members said.

'A total privacy invasion. After the contact alerted the family about the incident, they unplugged all Alexa-powered devices in their home and contacted Amazon.

"Our engineers went through your logs, and they saw exactly what you told us, they saw exactly what you said happened, and we're sorry". Soon after the incident took place, Danielle contacted Amazon for a clarification on why this had happened.

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In a statement to The Washington Post, Amazon explained that the Echo device woke up after hearing something that it thought sounded like "Alexa". It then interpreted the conversation between the woman and her husband as a command to send a message. At first, the pair found it hard to believe that the smart-speaker might pull such a trick single-handedly and send their conversation to some random contact.

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.

The report invigorated privacy concerns as online devices like the Amazon Echo become omnipresent in homes.

The program activates by saying the word "Alexa", then a command, like "play music". During the conversation between Danielle and her husband, Alexa mistakenly heard the request to "send message".

Assuring customers of Alexa's security is crucial to Amazon, which has ambitions for Alexa to be ubiquitous - whether dimming the lights for customers or placing orders for them with the world's largest online retailer.

While Amazon tried to downplay the concerns of its know-how's penchant for spying on its owners, the company is now embroiled in another privacy-related controversy over its (inadvertent) contribution to mass surveillance with new facial recognition technology.

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