The Amazon Alexa Assistant Recorded A Private Chat And Sent It To A Random Contact



According to Amazon, a series of misinterpretations is causing the problem.

Will it now be necessary to monitor what was said in one’s own home? Given the misadventure happened to this Portland couple, we can ask the question. These two Americans had the unpleasant surprise indeed to see one of their recorded conversations and sent to one of their contacts without their agreement, by their Amazon Echo speaker. Fortunately for them, their discussion was not about a sensitive subject: they spoke of parquet floors.

However, the event is no less unpleasant. Especially since it took Amazon some time to explain the cause of the incident. As TheNextWeb explains, Amazon’s customer service initially failed to provide lighting. Finally, a group spokesperson told The Verge that the problem was related to a series of misinterpretations.

What has happened?

A family from Portland, Oregon, had a conversation (the one we have with family at night). One of the many Echo devices in the family, with the assistant Alexa, recorded the conversation and sent it to an employee of the husband. This contact received audio files from the discussions that the Echo had sent. Amazon reacted quickly, the engineers went through the history of the device and apologized. The victims of this error are seeking a full refund on all Alexa products, but Amazon has for the moment proposed only to delete the recorded data.

Chain errors

The speaker would have woken up first because she would have misinterpreted a word of the discussion having a sound close to the word “Alexa,” the activation command. She then mistakenly believed that the conversation should be sent to a contact. She would have asked aloud “Who?” Moreover, then, again, misinterpreted part of the conversation, thinking to recognize the name of a contact. “Alexa then asked out loud,” [name of contact], right (trad: that’s right)? “, Says she and amazon’s spokeswoman then interpreted the background sound as being a “right.”

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A sequence of errors that may seem unlikely, but as noted by The Verge, it happens regularly that the speaker is triggered by mistake when people are talking nearby. “In my case, I have several times seen Alexa start to launch songs unexpectedly because she mistakenly thought that I had asked him,” says the author of the article. The Amazon company, meanwhile, wants to study ways to reduce the risk that the Portland scenario will happen again.

Also published on Medium.