Imagine that you are at home quietly talking with your partner whether to change the floor and put parquet or not. Imagine that while you do it your Amazon Echo speaker with Alexa records that conversation and sends it on its own to a seemingly random contact. Now stop imagining.
That is exactly what has happened to a Portland family in the United States. One woman explained how an employee of her husband called her telling her that she had received that recording and advising her to disconnect her devices with Alexa. In Amazon, they are not clear what could have happened.
To Alexa, they cross (a little) the cables
That employee suspected that the Amazon Echo family had been hacked, and after talking with Amazon to report the problem the company’s engineers checked the records and verified that everything actually happened as they had affected.
At the moment, the reasons for a problem that Amazon said it had ” an extremely rare possibility ” to happen are unclear. In Amazon they have given the following explanation:
The Amazon Echo woke up due to a word in a background conversation that sounded like “Alexa”. Then, the subsequent conversation was heard as a “send message” request. At that moment, Alexa said loudly, “Who?” At that time, the background conversation was interpreted as a name in the customer’s contact list. Alexa then asked loudly, “[contact name], right?” Alexa then interpreted the background conversation as “correct”. Despite the improbability of this chain of events, we are evaluating options to make this case even less likely.
The strange thing is that the family did not find out that they were asking for confirmation to perform those actions, but it happens that in that house they have several Amazon Echo devices and that request for confirmation could be issued by an Amazon Echo that this marriage is not He listened, and as he continued talking there must have been something in the conversation that made the machine understand that he should send the voice message.
The problem is, of course, worrisome although its scope on this occasion has been mostly anecdotal, once again highlights the difficult balance between convenience and privacy provided by smart speakers. There was already debate about it when another Amazon Echo could be crucial for the investigation of a murder in December 2016.
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