Amazon Admits Alexa Device Eavesdropped On Portland Family


However, Alexa's integration into society has been rocked by the claims of a family from Portland in the USA saying a private conversation was recorded by the diminutive device.

Danielle and her husband realized what happened when one of the husband's employees, who lives 176 miles away in Seattle, called on the phone to tell them that he had received audio files of their conversations. Danielle said they knew the employee wasn't joking when he told them all about a conversation they just had about hardwood floors. The caller turned out to be someone who worked for her husband.

In March, Alexa was caught in a laughing controversy when it happened to pick words from background conversation and seemed to start laughing without being prompted to wake.

"The person on the other line said, 'Unplug your Alexa devices right now, you're being hacked, '" she said.

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"I felt invaded, like total privacy invasion", Danielle said.

The couple then went around their home unplugging all their Amazon Alexa gadgets - they had them all over the place to manage various smart home devices, including a thermostat and security system - and then called the web giant to complain about the snooping tech. "The subsequent conversation was heard as a "send message" request". Companies like Amazon and Google say their devices only begin recording when their microphones hear a trigger word or phrase, like "Alexa" or "Hey Google".

"I'm never plugging that device in again - I can't trust it."
"We are taking steps to avoid this from happening in the future", said the statement to the news station. The colleague had been sent a recording of the conversation and was able to relay what the couple had been speaking about.

The background conversation was interpreted as a name in the customers contact list.

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The affected couple has four Amazon Alexa devices in their home which they use for controlling electrical devices and appliances.

However, Amazon maintains this event was a malfunction, and not proof that Alexa is always "listening". Last month researchers discovered a flaw in the Alexa voice assistant, enabling an Echo to continue listening to a person without them knowing.

In a statement provided to several media outlets, an Amazon spokesman explained why they believe the incident occurred.

But with the latest case of Alexa recording and then sending a private conversation without user's knowledge, questions will be raised around what triggered this. The Seattle, Washington-based company recently unveiled a partnership with homebuilder Lennar to showcase its technology in model homes, dubbed "Amazon Experience Centers".

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