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


A family in Portland, Oregon was horrified to find out their Amazon Alexa had recorded private conversations in their home and sent the audio to a random person on their contact list, in another state.

The woman, who only wanted to use her first name, Danielle, told the station that her family's Portland home is wired with Amazon systems to control everything from heat to light and security.

"Amazon takes privacy very seriously", Amazon said in a statement.

But a rogue Echo has just done something even more alarming - it secretly recorded a woman's conversation and sent it to one of her friends. In this case, Amazon said its device misheard background noise and recorded splices of conversations on a series of unfortunate events.

"At which point, Alexa said out loud 'To whom?'"

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The company also provided a statement to Ars Technica, saying a phrase in the conversation prompted Alexa - the smart speaker's virtual assistant - to activate. "Alexa then asked out loud, '[Contact name], right?' Alexa then interpreted background conversation as 'right, '" Amazon said. After confirming the audio file was indeed a recording of their private conversation, the family went on to unplug all of their Alexa-powered devices, the report said. "And we said, 'oh gosh, you really did hear us'".

An initial investigation by an Alexa engineer turned up no leads, according to the woman. That joke stopped being so amusing when a seemingly random person called out of the blue, warning them to unplug all of their smart home devices. "Like total privacy invasion".

"I felt invaded", she said. Danielle called Amazon, which reportedly investigated the incident, confirmed what happened, and apologized profusely. The engineer, who didn't provide specifics on what happened with their Echo device-in fact, they had multiple units throughout their home-did say that it was something the company needed to fix.

The house reportedly had multiple Alexa devices, so it's also possible that the system chose to ask for confirmation on the wrong device - saying "All right, I've sent that to Steve" on the living room Echo because the users' voices carried from the kitchen.