Alexa, the virtual digital assistant by Amazon that is the brain behind all the smarts in the Echo-lineup of smart speakers. It is also one of the top virtual digital assistants in the market that is fighting with its competition for space in the living room or bedroom of a number of customers across the United States and other counties where smart speakers are available. As the virtual digital assistants and the use of smart speakers gains the mainstream, a number of internet users have also raised concerns about privacy regarding the private conversations that people have in the safety of their homes.
Considering the fears about lack of privacy in a world where more and more people are using Internet-connect smart speakers with built-in virtual assistants, some cases are bound to happen that stir the conversation. According to a new report by Venture Beat, Alexa on an Amazon Echo speaker in Portland recorded an audio clip of a private conversation of a woman, the owner of the Echo speaker and sent it to a random person in her contact list.
The Echo owner in question was made aware of the issue when the person in her contact list called her home to inform her that she may have been hacked. The women the contacted an Alexa engineer who “guessed” that it is likely that the virtual digital assistant used its “Alexa Voice Messaging” feature to record and send the conversation without any verbal confirmation. The report went on to add that Amazon apologized to the woman after confirming the turn of events adding that it needs to fix this problem. The woman also informed that the engineer apologized to her “like 15 times in a matter of 30 minutes”.
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Amazon offered her to disable the communication features of her Echo speaker, but the owner is asking for a refund on the device. She went on to add that she felt invaded and this was “a total privacy invasion”. She stated that she will “never” plug the device back in because she can’t trust it. Amazon issued a statement adding that Echo woke up because of a word that sounded like “Alexa” and the subsequent conversation was heard as “send message” to which Alexa asked out aloud “To whom?”.
The speaker then heard the following conversation as the name of one of the contacts from the list. Alexa went on to confirm the name of the contact with “[contact name], right?” and the background conversation was understood as “right”. The entire event seems highly unlikely but it is what Amazon officially revealed in response and unfortunately, we are no experts in reading internal device logs for Echo speakers.