PORTLAND, Ore. – A Portland woman says her family’s Amazon Alexa speaker recorded a private conversation in her home and sent the recording to one of her husband’s employees in Seattle.
The woman, identified only as Danielle, told KIRO in Seattle that every room in her home was wired with the voice-controlled speakers, and she used them to control her home’s heat, lights and security.
"My husband and I would joke and say, 'I'd bet these devices are listening to what we're saying,'" said Danielle.
Two weeks ago, Danielle said she received a phone call that made her think twice about using Alexa.
"The person on the other line said, 'Unplug your Alexa devices right now,'" Danielle told KIRO. "'You're being hacked.'"
The person sent Danielle back the recording.
"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.'"
Danielle said she called Amazon repeatedly. An Alexa engineer investigated and apologized.
"They said, 'Our engineers went through your logs, and they saw exactly what you told us, they saw exactly what you said happened, and we're sorry.'"
Danielle said it wasn’t clear if the issue was widespread.
"A husband and wife in the privacy of their home have conversations that they're not expecting to be sent to someone [in] their address book."
Amazon spokeswoman Dawn Brun sent the following explanation to KGW on Thursday afternoon:
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 customer’s 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," Brun added, "we are evaluating options to make this case even less likely."