In 'Unlikely' String of Events, Amazon Echo Records, Sends Conversation

Family acquaintance was sent audio file of discussion
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 24, 2018 4:58 PM CDT
Amazon Echo Records Conversation, Sends It to Acquaintance
In this Sept. 27, 2017, file photo, Amazon Echo, Echo Plus, and Echo Button devices are shown.   (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

Amazon says an "unlikely" string of events prompted its Echo personal assistant device to record a Portland, Oregon, family's private conversation and then send the recording to an acquaintance in Seattle, the AP reports. The woman told KIRO-TV that two weeks ago an employee of her husband contacted them to say he thought their device had been hacked. 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. The company said the device interpreted a word in the background conversation as "Alexa"—a command that makes it wake up—and then it interpreted the conversation as a "send message" request.

"At which point, Alexa said out loud 'To whom?'" the statement said. "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.'" The statement continued: "As unlikely as this string of events is, we are evaluating options to make this case even less likely." The woman, who was identified only by her first name in the news report, said every room in her family's home was wired with the Amazon devices to control her home's heat, lights and security system. She said the family unplugged the devices and contacted Amazon after they learned the recording had been sent.

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