A major privacy gaffe saw one of Amazon's Alexa-enabled Echo devices secretly record a private conversation between a married couple from Portland, Oregon, and send it to a random phone contact in Seattle, Washington, Kiro7 reports. Danielle, who wanted her last name kept private, says she received a phone call from one of her husband's Seattle-based employees some two weeks back, with the person in question urging her to unplug all of her Echo devices in the household and asserting the family was "being hacked."
While the couple was first skeptical of the claim, their doubts were quickly dispelled when the caller accurately described their conversation about hardwood floors. No Amazon-made smart gadget in their household gave any indication of recording their exchange or sending it to a third party. "I'm never plugging that device in again because I can't trust it," Danielle said, adding that she "felt invaded." After contacting Amazon, the company confirmed her findings, with one of its artificial intelligence engineers repeatedly apologizing for the ordeal and thanking her for bringing the issue to the company's attention. "He told us that the device just guessed what we were saying," the woman recalled, adding that the official in question did not elaborate on the matter or made any other effort to explain what caused the AI assistant to malfunction in such a manner.
The tech giant offered to "de-provision" Alexa while still allowing the family to continue using the home automation features of their Internet of Things setup but the pair refused and pushed for a full refund instead. Amazon denied the request and the situation has yet to be resolved. In a subsequent statement provided to Kiro7, an Amazon spokesperson said the incident happened due to an "an extremely rare occurrence" that the company is working on preventing from happening again. No other similar cases of the firm's speakers spying on users have been reported to date. Earlier this year, numerous individuals were complaining about Alexa malfunctioning in a highly bizarre manner that prompted the digital assistant to randomly laugh at its owners. Amazon also said that issue only occurred in "rare cases" when the helper thought it heard the phrase "Alexa, laugh," having later issued an update that changed the accepted wording of the command to "Alexa, can you laugh" in order to prevent the problem from happening in the future.