Here's why Amazon Echo recorded a family's conversation


Confirming privacy advocates' worst nightmares, an Amazon Echo not only recorded a private conversation without permission but then sent it to a random contact on the device.

Danielle added that they were only made aware that the conversation had been recorded and forwarded when the recipient contacted them and suggested they "unplug your Alexa devices right now... you're being hacked".

Alexa spying fears as Echo "records woman's private conversation then sends it to friend". The couple who did not wish to reveal their full identity spoke to KIRO7 on a first name basis. Danielle says she and her husband felt it was "a total privacy invasion", and it is unlikely that Amazon's explanation will do anything to encourage her to use her Echo every again. At which point, Alexa said out loud "To whom?' At which point, the background conversation was interpreted as a name in the customers contact list". It then interpreted the conversation between the woman and her husband as a command to send a message.

"At which point, Alexa said out loud 'To whom?'"

Although Amazon maintains this was a malfunction rather than proof Alexa is always listening, the company has filed patent applications in the past for functionalities that involve always listening, such as an algorithm that would analyse when people say they "love" or "bought" something. After a while, Amazon responded to the complaint and acknowledged that there was a glitch with the particular Echo Dot speaker and that Alexa misunderstood the conversation as a command. "He apologised like 15 times in a matter of 30 minutes and he said we really appreciate you bringing this to our attention, this is something we need to fix!"

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Amazon and Google say their speakers are created to record audio only when activated with a trigger word, such as "Alexa" or "Hey Google". She was livid with the discovery and took the colleague's advice by unplugging her Amazon Echo devices from her house.

All this sounds extremely unlikely but it also kind of explains what happened perfectly. During the conversation between Danielle and her husband, Alexa mistakenly heard the request to "send message". Users had reported in March this year, that Alexa was laughing creepily in the background and many were scared by the same. But if you want to make sure this doesn't happen to you, then simply avoid sending any kind of messages over Alexa.

One other issue to consider is that the couple never heard Alexa's replies.

These recordings are then stored on Amazon's servers.