How an Alexa speaker recorded and shared a private conversation

Friday, 25 May, 2018

A U.S. couple was horrified to find out that their private conversation was recorded by Amazon's Echo voice-controlled device and sent to a work contact.

Last month researchers discovered a flaw in the Alexa voice assistant, enabling an Echo to continue listening to a person without them knowing. 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.

"He proceeded to tell us that he had received audio files of recordings from inside our house", Danielle says.

When contacted by the family, Amazon said it takes privacy "very seriously", but downplayed the incident as an "extremely rare occurrence". "Echo woke up due to a word in background conversation sounding like "Alexa". Two weeks ago, she received an urgent message from one of her husband's colleagues, who lived in Seattle, that her digital assistant was likely hacked as he received a recording of her private conversation with her husband.

"'Alexa then asked out loud, "[contact name]" right? Even Amazon agrees that this was an unlikely chain of events, but says it is working on ways to make it even more unlikely to repeat.

For what it's worth, Danielle told ABC that there were no audible warnings from Alexa that it (she?) was doing anything. She stated that the company representative did not answer why Alexa recorded her conversation, or if it is a common issue.

Its retail giant's critics argue that by selling its "Rekognition" technology, which can identify, track and analyze people in real time, to USA law enforcement and local authorities, Amazon threatens civil freedoms. Initially, the problem spawned thoughts of someone hacking into her system, with the employee suggesting she unplug her device before digging deeper. Only then is Alexa supposed to follow your commands, and send messages to others, if that's an ability you have activated on your Echo smart speakers. The company sent engineers to investigate, who verified that Alexa had indeed recorded the family's conversation.

Danielle said she listened to the conversation when it was sent back to her.

Amazon responds to claim that device sent private conversation from CNBC. While the family is seeking a full refund and Amazon has reportedly only offered to "de-provision" their Alexa communications. Users had reported in March this year, that Alexa was laughing creepily in the background and many were scared by the same.

Amazon also said it was changing the VA's response from simply laughter to, "Sure, I can laugh", only then would it be followed by laughter.