Amazon Echo devices are powered by AI-powered Alexa assistant Image: TWITTER
Imagine you and your significant other having a private conversation in the confines of your bedroom when suddenly you get a call from an acquaintance in another city asking why would you send him or her a recording of the same personal exchange. Sounds like a Sci-Fi nightmare, right? Well, a couple from Portland in Oregon, US, lived exactly the same nightmare and the culprit was none other than the Amazon Echo personal assistant device installed in their home.
Danielle, who refused to give her last name, in an interview with Kiro7, narrated the entire incident. The unsuspecting couple first got to know what's happening when a former employee of the husband from Seattle (300kms from Portland) called them and said they were being hacked.
"The person on the other line said, 'unplug your Alexa devices right now. You're being hacked.' We unplugged all of them and he proceeded to tell us that he had received audio files of recordings from inside our house," Danielle recalled.
"At first, my husband was, like, 'no you didn't!' And he (recipient of the message) said 'You sat there talking about hardwood floors.' And we said, 'oh gosh, you really did hear us'," she added.
Thankfully for Danielle, the conversation only involved flooring but the fact that something like it transpired without their knowledge was shocking. "I felt invaded. A total privacy invasion. Immediately I said, 'I'm never plugging that device in again, because I can't trust it,'" she continued.
I felt invaded. A total privacy invasion. Immediately I said, 'I'm never plugging that device in again' Danielle
Amazon, in a statement on Thursday, confirmed the woman’s private conversation had indeed been recorded and sent to a random contact without her knowledge. The statement said that the device had interpreted a word in the background conversation as 'Alexa' — a command that activates the device to listen to voice commands. And then a string of misinterpretations by the smart speaker led to the message being recorded and sent to a random contact. Not so smart, is it?
Amazon has stated it's investigating the incident in order to fix the issues.