Alexa device sent conversation to family’s contact

National
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Amazon says an “unlikely” string of events prompted its Echo personal assistant device to record a Portland family’s private conversation and then send the recording to an acquaintance in Seattle.

“My husband and I would randomly joke sometimes like, I bet these devices are listening to what we’re saying,” Danielle told KIRO-TV in Seattle. 
    
She said two weeks ago an employee of her husband contacted them to say he thought their device had been hacked. 

“The person on the other line said ‘unplug your Alexa devices right now,” Danielle said. 

He told them he had received an audio file of them discussing hardwood floors.

In a statement Thursday, Amazon confirmed the woman’s private conversation had been inadvertently recorded and sent.
    
It says the device interpreted a word in the background conversation as “Alexa” – a command that makes the machine wake up – and then it interpreted the conversation as a “send message” request.

 “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 customer’s 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.”

Andrew Palto, who owns a security business, said there are ways to increase your privacy if you’re worried Alexa has a mind of her own. 

He said it’s as easy as changing the prompts to address the device, disable its features and, “press that red button on the top and mute it when you’re not using it that way. You don’t have to worry abut it communicating anything.”

Danielle said she’s not taking that chance again.

“I fell invaded!” she said. “Like total privacy invasion. Like immediately I’m like, I’m never plugging that device in again. I can’t trust it.”

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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