Amazon 'evaluating options' after woman reports device shared private conversation

Amazon's Alexa has been caught recording the private conversation of a Portland-based coupled in the USA, and then sending that recording to someone else in the family's contact list. 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.

Amazon confirmed the woman's claim that the speaker had recorded the conversation and sent it to another person, describing it as the result of an "unlikely" chain of events. According to Amazon spokesperson, the Echo Dot woke up due to a word in background conversation which sounded like Alexa.

Recognising the improbability of this series of mishaps occuring, they added: "As unlikely as this string of events is, we are evaluating options to make this case even less likely". "Alexa then asked out loud, '[contact name], right?' Alexa then interpreted background conversation as 'right".

Amazon's Alexa isn't only listening to everything you say - it's absorbing it. The woman said the device never told them it was preparing to send the recording.

"Unplug your Alexa devices right now!" warned the puzzled recipient.

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The market for smart speakers is on a rise as both companies and customers are investing in it.

The incident raises questions that many smartphone and computer users have been asking for some time now about whether these always-on services - such as Alexa, Siri, Cortana or Google Home - are always listening. The used the devices for everything from controlling the temperature, security, and lights of their home to making phone calls. It then interpreted the conversation between the woman and her husband as a command to send a message.

The engineer did not explain why it happened, though. 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.

"He told us that the device just guessed what we were saying", she said. In April, Amazon's smart assistant Echo was revealed to contain a coding error that made it easy for hackers to listen in on users' private conversations. We investigated what happened and determined this was an extremely rare occurrence. "You are being hacked", is what the caller told Danielle and her husband, who have an Amazon Echo speaker in their home. "We are taking steps to avoid this from happening in the future", the company said in a statement. Then too it misunderstood some words or phrases as "Alexa, laugh" command.

  • Delia Davidson