Amazon's Alexa recorded private conversation, sent it to random contact

Amazon's Alexa records and shares private conversation

A couple from OR were shocked to find out that their Alexa-powered speaker recorded a private conversation in their home and sent to a person in their contact list.

Updated It's time to break out your "Alexa, I Told You So" banners - because a Portland, Oregon, couple received a phone call from one of the husband's employees earlier this month, telling them she had just received a recording of them talking privately in their home.

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

The woman, who was identified only by her first name in the news report, said every room in her family's home was wired with the Amazon devices to control her home's heat, lights and security system. "You are being hacked", is what the caller told Danielle and her husband, who have an Amazon Echo speaker in their home.

"I felt invaded", the woman, named Danielle, told KIRO-TV. "Like immediately I'm like, I'm never plugging that device in again, I can't trust it", Danielle said. "And we said, 'oh gosh, you really did hear us'". The Alexa voice inside the Echo has a series of checks to ensure that messages are not sent without the explicit consent of the people stood around the device but somehow Alexa mistakenly thought that those checks had been satisfied.

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The couple then contacted Amazon and finally spoke with an Alexa representative that investigated the issue. According to Amazon, Alexa had asked for a confirmation of the contact name to which the recording was sent, and it interpreted the background sound as a yes.

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.

But those who do not want Alexa to listen to them at all can press and hold the microphone button on top of their Echo speaker until it turns red. "Alexa then asked out loud, "[contact name], right?" Humans can't hear the commands, but smart speakers can.

Danielle told KIRO7 that Alexa did not say out loud that it was sending a recording to a contact. The Seattle, Washington-based company recently unveiled a partnership with homebuilder Lennar to showcase its technology in model homes, dubbed "Amazon Experience Centers".

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