Amazon's smart-speaker Alexa 'leaks' private conversation to random number

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.

United States news outlet KIRO 7 reported that a woman, identified only as Danielle from Portland, Oregon, had been unaware of what happened until she received a phone call from her husband's employee. Then the assistant asked to whom the message should be sent and then again hearing the background conversation she selected a name from the family's contact list. 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.

"We are evaluating options to make this case even less likely".

"I felt invaded", a family member called Danielle said.

Amazon's Alexa voice interface is in hot water after a USA family claimed a private conversation was recorded and forwarded by the Echo platform. "Echo woke up due to a word in background conversation sounding like "Alexa".

In a more detailed explanation of what could have provoked the 'glitch, ' the company told TechCrunch that Alexa, which is supposed to be activated upon hearing its 'name, ' had most likely mistaken some of the words in the conversation for an eerily coincidental string of commands. She said she would never plug the devices anymore.

Danielle, who didn't want to give her surname to the station, said the voice on the other end of the line belonged to an employee of her husband, calling from Seattle with alarming news. Just a couple of months ago, users began reporting unusual sound emitting from their devices, describing them as "creepy laughs" coming from the smart speakers.

The incident raises questions that many smartphone and computer users have been asking for some time now about whether these always-on services - such as Alexa, Siri, Cortana or Google Home - are always listening.

Danielle then called Amazon and the company sent an Alexa engineer to investigate the matter.

Danielle told KIRO 7 that the device did not tell her that it would be sending the recorded conversations.

After unplugging the devices, which were throughout every room in her home and created to control lights and heating, Danielle called the company to find out what happened.

All this sounds extremely unlikely but it also kind of explains what happened perfectly. However, Danielle and her husband were not given any specifics on what caused the Alexa issue in the first place. In April, Amazon's smart assistant Echo was revealed to contain a coding error that made it easy for hackers to listen in on users' private conversations.

Amazon, in a statement provided to the media, described the event as a rare occurrence.

These recordings are then stored on Amazon's servers.

  • Fernando Stephens