Amazon says it is taking steps to make sure that its Alexa-powered Echo home speaker devices do not secretly record the conversations of users after an unusual situation involving a Portland family in which discussions were recorded without their knowledge, and then sent to a contact in Seattle.
"As unlikely as this string of events is, we are evaluating options to make this case even less likely", an Amazon spokesperson told Buzzfeed.
Now her family has unplugged all the devices, and although Amazon offered to "de-provision" the devices of their communications features so they could keep using them to control their home, Danielle and her family reportedly want a refund instead. "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! Like total privacy invasion". Join us in a conversation about world events, the newsgathering process or whatever aspect of the news universe you find interesting or important.
The speaker later heard "send message" during the conversation, at which point the device asked, "to whom?"
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In March, Alexa was caught in a laughing controversy when it happened to pick words from background conversation and seemed to start laughing without being prompted to wake.
According to market research group eMarketer, more than 60 million U.S. consumers will use a smart speaker at least once a month this year, with more than 40 million of them using Amazon's devices.
For this to happen, something has gone very seriously wrong with the Alexa device's programming. "Unplug your Alexa devices right now", the person on the other end of the line said. "At which point, Alexa said out loud 'To whom?'" according to the statement.
Amazon confirmed the incident in a statement Thursday and said the device interpreted background noise as commands, prompting it to record and send the conversation.
Danielle told KIRO7 that Alexa did not say out loud that it was sending a recording to a contact.
This would mean that, while a human listener hears an orchestra, the voice assistant might hear an instruction to add something to your shopping list. We have no doubt that the company will inform us in a few days that it has discovered the issue and fixed it so it will never happen again.