While devices like smart speakers undoubtedly make your day to day life more convenient, they also pose privacy concerns. Take, for example, Alexa series – just last month, Amazon fixed a flaw that allowed devices to eavesdrop, and now, a new and more serious problem has been reported, and has since been acknowledged by the company.
What happened is that a Portland, Oregon family-owned Amazon Echo recorded their conversation and sent it to one of their contacts. After the contact alerted the family about the incident, they unplugged all Alexa-powered devices in their home and contacted Amazon.
“They said ‘our engineers went through your logs, and they saw exactly what you told us, they saw exactly what you said happened, and we’re sorry.’ He apologized like 15 times in a matter of 30 minutes and he said we really appreciate you bringing this to our attention, this is something we need to fix!” said a family member.
Explaining how the incident occurred, here’s what Amazon said:
“Echo woke up due to a word in background conversation sounding like “Alexa.” Then, the subsequent conversation was heard as a “send message” request. At which point, Alexa said out loud “To whom?” At which point, the background conversation was interpreted as a name in the customers contact list. Alexa then asked out loud, “[contact name], right?” Alexa then interpreted background conversation as “right”. As unlikely as this string of events is, we are evaluating options to make this case even less likely.”
While the family is seeking a full refund, Amazon has reportedly only offered to ‘de-provision’ their Alexa communications.