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Amazon's Alexa Recorded a Woman's Private Conversation and Sent it to a Contact

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Apr 12, 2001
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A woman in Portland recently had an alarming experience with her Alexa-enabled devices after a private conversation was recorded and sent to a random contact, according to a news report from Seattle's Kiro7 news.

The woman, Danielle, and her family had Amazon devices situated in each room for home control, and two weeks ago, one of those devices apparently recorded a conversation about hardwood floors and sent it to a person on their contact list. There are no details on how the recording was delivered to the contact.

But Danielle said two weeks ago their love for Alexa changed with an alarming phone call. "The person on the other line said, 'unplug your Alexa devices right now,'" she said. "'You're being hacked.'"

That person was one of her husband's employees, calling from Seattle.

"We unplugged all of them and he proceeded to tell us that he had received audio files of recordings from inside our house," she said. "At first, my husband was, like, 'no you didn't!' And the (recipient of the message) said 'You sat there talking about hardwood floors.' And we said, 'oh gosh, you really did hear us.'"
Danielle confirmed that the recordings received by the contact were indeed conversations picked up by her Alexa device, and in no way was she informed that Alexa was sending the recording to a contact. She contacted Amazon and was told that the "device just guessed what we were saying." Amazon apologized and told her it would fix the issue.

Alexa has an option to send a message to a contact name using a voice recording, but Alexa is supposed to vocally confirm such requests and does not appear to have done so in this instance.

In a statement to the Kiro7, Amazon said that it "takes privacy very seriously" and that the event was an "extremely rare occurrence" that it is taking steps to prevent in the future.

This is not the first strange Alexa behavior that Amazon has had to deal with. Back in March, Alexa made headlines after multiple customers with Alexa-enabled devices reported hearing creepy, unsolicited laughter.

Article Link: Amazon's Alexa Recorded a Woman's Private Conversation and Sent it to a Contact
 

NT1440

macrumors G5
May 18, 2008
12,633
16,166
Does anyone honestly believe that defense contractors, Amazon in this case, aren’t actively participating in the surveillance program?

I get that cell phones are essentially trackers, but the glee people have put these stupid devices in their house with makes no sense to me.
 
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JRobinsonJr

macrumors 6502a
Aug 20, 2015
656
1,163
Arlington, Texas
While this is indeed troubling, given that there is no such thing as bug-free software this type of side effect is going to happen. Once it does, a family/home risk analysis is in order. Can you live with the occasional random bug? If so, don't stress. If not, unplug. The real concern is how... and how quickly... Amazon responds. Fortunately because of their software model those fixes are automatically applied as soon as possible.

For me (YMMV) I can live with this. I don't, however, connect Alexa to anything financial or to my home security system. Lights, Devices, and Music are my staples.
 
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theheadguy

macrumors 65816
Apr 26, 2005
1,131
1,341
california
"'You sat there talking about hardwood floors.' And we said, 'oh gosh, you really did hear us.'"
LOL. I can't find the YouTube clip of Disney's Aristocats but it reminds me of the scene where one dog is talking to the other dog about a car that he hears in the distance and is asked "what color car is it" and at first he begins to answer (appearing to listen for the color of the car) and then says, "now how would I know that?!" :D:D

 
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DNichter

macrumors G3
Apr 27, 2015
9,100
10,328
Philadelphia, PA
Not totally surprising. Echo's exist so Amazon can sell you more products. I bought a HomePod and have found it to be a much better experience, from sounding amazing, to Siri hearing me from upstairs and over music, to HomeKit automation. I sold my Echo's and have been happy so far. I'd like a couple mini HomePod's for around the house.
 
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dwaltwhit

macrumors 6502a
Oct 25, 2013
669
1,035
Tennessee
since this is the only time I have heard of anything like this, I will assume this is either an anomaly or an instance of the woman not hearing the confirmation from alexa. The idea that this is indicative of amazon's intention to eavesdrop on consumers seems like it would need to meet a pretty high bar of proof.
 
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apb87

macrumors member
Apr 26, 2010
87
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since this is the only time I have heard of anything like this, I will assume this is either an anomaly or an instance of the woman not hearing the confirmation from alexa. The idea that this is indicative of amazon's intention to eavesdrop on consumers seems like it would need to meet a pretty high bar of proof.

Amazon will later determine that she was talking incorrectly.
 
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SandboxGeneral

Moderator emeritus
Sep 8, 2010
26,482
9,991
Detroit
Just another reason why I got rid of my Google Home devices.

Though, I sure hope my Apple HomePod doesn't ever do something like this! o_O
 
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tech3475

macrumors 6502
May 17, 2011
311
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Not too surprised, I have several Echo Dots and they can get triggered easily at times.

One reason why I didn't link my phone to it outside of using the Alexa app.

These things can be handy, but you still need to be careful.
 
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