Amazon Alexa recorded owner's conversation and sent to 'random' contact, couple complains

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A couple from OR were shocked to find out that their Alexa-powered speaker recorded a private conversation in their home and sent to a person in their contact list.

A woman named Danielle who did not give her last name told the station her family found out about the eavesdropping when one of her husband's employees called to tell them, "unplug your Alexa devices right now".

This was because they had been sent an audio conversation recorded by Alexa, where Danielle and her husband were talking about hardwood floors.

That's the explanation from Amazon, according to CNN, which quotes an Amazon spokesperson stating: "Echo woke up due to a word in background conversation sounding like "Alexa.' Then, the subsequent conversation was heard as a 'send message" request".

"I felt invaded", Danielle said.

Recording and sharing a private conversation without consent is the second incident this year that has raised concerns about Amazon's virtual assistant. "Alexa then asked out loud, '[contact name], right?' Alexa then interpreted background conversation as 'right". The company said it would disable the phrase "Alexa, laugh" and instead change the command to "Alexa, can you laugh?" to ensure less false positives. "I'm never plugging that device in again", she said.

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

Amazon and rivals Apple, Google and Sonos have been pushing to integrate voice technology into all kinds of devices in the home, from speakers to cameras, thermostats and doorbells.

However, Amazon maintains this event was a malfunction, and not proof that Alexa is always "listening". Two weeks ago, she received an urgent message from one of her husband's colleagues, who lived in Seattle, that her digital assistant was likely hacked as he received a recording of her private conversation with her husband.

The acquaintance played back the recorded conversations, which were just as he'd described, and Danielle came to the realisation that their conversation had been recorded and sent to someone 176 miles away without her knowledge.

"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, '" Danielle told KIRO. Amazon blamed the "extremely rare" incident on an unlikely sequence of events. Amazon is yet to clarify this, but many users of the home speakers will ask whether there are cases where Alexa could be recording without their explicit permission.

Amazon had then admitted the problem, and said it would roll out a fix for the same.

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