Amazon’s Alexa Recorded a Family’s Conversation and Sent it to a Contact [Update: Amazon Explains!]

Amazon Echo

Smart speakers are a pretty common element in a lot of homes now, with a lot of trust being put into these connected devices.

Update: Amazon has provided a reason as to why Alexa recorded a conversation and sent it to a stored contact without the explicit consent of the device owner. According to the company, Alexa was trigged because the smart speaker thought it heard a word that sounded like “Alexa”, and then determined the command as “send message”. As a result, the conversation was recorded and it was sent off.

“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.”

So, there we go. What do you think of the reasoning? Good enough?

The original article continues below.

But sometimes technology can do strange things, and oftentimes without the owner’s direct consent. Which appears to be the case with a family that owns a variety of different Amazon Echo smart speakers, with Amazon’s digital personal assistant, Alexa, on board. As was first reported on Thursday by KIRO 7, a family based out of Portland, Oregon, was having a conversation and it was recorded by one of their Alexa-enabled products.

That’s not all. The conversation was recorded, but then it was sent to a stored contact after the recording finished. According to the family, they have Alexa devices in every room of their house, which they use to control other smart products in their home.

The family spoke with an Alexa engineer, who said that it’s an issue that needs to be addressed and fixed. However, the engineer didn’t provide any additional details on the subject. Amazon, for its part, did provide a statement to the news agency:

“Amazon takes privacy very seriously. We investigated what happened and determined this was an extremely rare occurrence. We are taking steps to avoid this from happening in the future.”

Unfortunately, there is no word on when Amazon might get this fixed, or if they’d even say anything more about it once they do fix it. Or why it happened in the first place.

Our Take

Having devices that are always listening to us is going to come with an element of trust, but it’s always worth being aware that these types of breaches in our trust are possible. It would be nice to get some transparency on Amazon’s part, though, to see why this happened and how they’re going to fix it. That might be too much to ask, though.

[via KIRO 7]