Scary things happen every now and then. Like when a family’s Amazon Echo recorded and then sent a private conversation to someone in their contacts. Thankfully, there was nothing sensitive in the conversation. But you can imagine how much worse it could be.
Here is an excerpt from a news report by KIRO 7, a Portland, Oregon local TV station:
Every room in her family home was wired with the Amazon devices to control her home’s heat, lights and security system.
But Danielle said two weeks ago their love for Alexa changed with an alarming phone call. “The person on the other line said, ‘unplug your Alexa devices right now,'” she said. “‘You’re being hacked.'”
That person was one of her husband’s employees, calling from Seattle.
“We unplugged all of them and he proceeded to tell us that he had received audio files of recordings from inside our house,” she said. “At first, my husband was, like, ‘no you didn’t!’ And the (recipient of the message) said ‘You sat there talking about hardwood floors.’ And we said, ‘oh gosh, you really did hear us.'”
Danielle listened to the conversation when it was sent back to her, and she couldn’t believe someone 176 miles away heard it too.
“I felt invaded,” she said. “A total privacy invasion. Immediately I said, ‘I’m never plugging that device in again, because I can’t trust it.'”
OMG! That must have freaked that family out.
Personally, I find this scenario where we have always-listening devices all around us all the time very scary.
Oh; I know what the manufacturers say – that those devices are not always listening but start listening after a trigger word. If you believe that, you will believe anything.
Has Amazon responded to this issue? Yes; they sent an explanation to Recode:
Echo woke up due to a word in background conversation sounding like “Alexa.” Then, the subsequent conversation was heard as a “send message” request. At which point, Alexa said out loud “To whom?” At which point, the background conversation was interpreted as a name in the customers contact list. Alexa then asked out loud, “[contact name], right?” Alexa then interpreted background conversation as “right”. As unlikely as this string of events is, we are evaluating options to make this case even less likely.”
Well, well, well. That was easy. In other words, this random act of “eavesdropping” and privacy violation can happen to anyone.
This isn’t just about Amazon Echo and Alexa. Every device out there with this capability built in is suspect. This includes all devices running Google Assistant – Google Home, Android tablets and smartphones. And for Apple lovers, there is Siri.
If it listens, it can stab you in the back randomly like this, and when it does, the conversation shared might be much more confidential and the recipient, less benevolent.
Please head to the news source to read the full story.