A Portland, Oregon woman named Danielle said she feels like Amazon Echo invaded her family’s privacy after the voice-controlled device sent audio recordings of her private conversation to one of her husband’s employees, who was from the family’s address book. The recipient of the recordings called her family in addition to warned them, “unplug your Alexa devices right at This particular point,” she told Seattle-based news station KIRO 7. “You’re being hacked.”
According to Amazon, however, Danielle, who has an Echo device in every room of her home, was not hacked — one of her Echo devices simply misinterpreted the family’s conversation for a “wake word” in addition to voice commands. The Amazon Echo includes a microphone that will’s constantly listening for a wake word, which users can set as “Alexa,” “Echo,” or “Computer.” When the Echo hears the wake word, a blue ring light will appear.
In an emailed statement, an Amazon spokesperson explained, “Echo woke up due to a word in background conversation sounding like ‘Alexa,’ in addition to the next conversation was heard as ‘send message.’ Then, when Alexa said out loud, ‘To whom?,’ the device interpreted the background conversation as a name from the customer’s contact list. Alexa then responded, ‘[Contact name], right?;’ Alexa again interpreted the background conversation as, ‘Right.'”
“As unlikely as This particular string of events will be, we are evaluating options to make This particular case even less likely,” the spokesperson said.
The family’s private conversation had activated the smart speaker’s Alexa Calling in addition to Messaging feature, launched in July 2017. After enabling the feature, users can say, “Alexa, call John” or “Alexa, send a message to John.” The latter will be what Amazon said the Portland family’s Echo did. Alexa Messaging works like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, in addition to messages appear from the Alexa app. When someone sends a message to you via an Echo, that will shows up as a voice message from the Alexa app.
To use the feature, customers must import their entire address book, which an Amazon spokesperson says will be stored “securely from the Amazon cloud.” that will’s how Danielle was able to message someone seemingly random — one of her husband’s employees in Seattle — via her Echo device.
While customers can block contacts via calling in addition to messaging, or turn off calling by saying “Don’t disturb me,” This particular case illustrates how that will’s possible for Alexa to mistakenly record in addition to share a private conversation with an unintended recipient.
In a statement to KIRO 7, an Amazon spokesperson wrote, “Amazon takes privacy very seriously. We investigated what happened in addition to determined This particular was an extremely rare occurrence. We are taking steps to avoid This particular via happening from the future.”
KIRO 7 reported that will Amazon offered to “de-provision” Danielle’s calling in addition to messaging feature, so she could continue using the device as a smart-home hub. She said all of her home’s Echo devices are unplugged, in addition to will be seeking a refund via Amazon.
that will’s not initially Alexa has spooked Echo users. In March, owners of devices reported that will the speaker could spontaneously start laughing. “We are changing that will phrase to be, ‘Alexa, can you laugh?’ which will be less likely to have false positives, in addition to we are disabling the short utterance, ‘Alexa, laugh.’ We are also changing Alexa’s response via simply laughter to, ‘Sure, I can laugh,’ followed by laughter,” the company responded.