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 engineer didn't say why the glitch happened or why Alexa, the company's virtual assistant, didn't inform Danielle it was preparing to send the files, something it's programmed to do, she said. "I felt invaded", one of the family members said. "Like total privacy invasion". After her experience, she's vowing never to use them again. It then further mistook their conversation for a name in their contact list, and then as a confirmation to send that person the recording.
Danielle immediately unplugged all of the devices and repeatedly called up Amazon.
According to KIRO 7, Danielle - who had been talking with her husband about hardwood floors on the secretly recorded conversation - said she is hoping to receive a refund on her Alexa-powered devices.
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When contacted by KIRO-7, Amazon confirmed the report and added in a statement that the company "determined this was an extremely rare occurrence". "We are taking steps to avoid this from happening in the future", Amazon wrote in a statement obtained by KIRO. Still, the "Alexa" wake word has been prone to false positives (see: the creepy laughter incident), and it's not hard to imagine Alexa misinterpreting conversation as a text message request.
"Unplug your Alexa devices right now, you're being hacked", Danielle recalled the voice saying.
Alexa starts recording after hearing its name or another "wake word" chosen by users, meaning that even having a TV switched on can result in the device being activated.
She has since contacted Amazon to launch an investigation.
There have always been accusations that digital assistants such as Amazon's Alexa and Apple's Siri are constantly listening in on and recording conversations, and recent events in Portland, Oregon are simply going to serve as extra fuel for conspiracy theorists.