25 May, 2018
The incident raises questions that many smartphone and computer users have been asking for some time now about whether these always-on services - such as Alexa, Siri, Cortana or Google Home - are always listening.
Amazon has an explanation as to what happened. According to Amazon spokesperson, the Echo Dot woke up due to a word in background conversation which sounded like Alexa. Two weeks ago, she received an urgent message from one of her husband's colleagues, who lived in Seattle, that her digital assistant was likely hacked as he received a recording of her private conversation with her husband.
Amazon and Google say their speakers are created to record audio only when activated with a trigger word, such as "Alexa" or "Hey Google". 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?'
Hours after the report came out, Amazon acknowledged that was a sort of glitch with this particular Echo Dot speaker and that Alexa misunderstood the conversation as a command.
"We are evaluating options to make this case even less likely".
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The Echo only confirms a contact name if there are multiple people in an address book with the same or similar sounding names.
But, no matter how you look at it, this is a serious issue. Have you experienced any problems with your virtual assistant? The companies also allow users to access and delete audio recordings that are stored on their servers. Then in between the couple's conversation, Alexa heard the request to "send message" by mistake. "And I think we are starting to see examples of that". The Portland couple however, says they gave no such confirmation.
She added: "Immediately I said: "I'm never plugging that device in again, because I can't trust it".
On the other hand, this isn't a frequent occurrence, or the web would be filled with similar stories.
The company has since asked Danielle if she and her husband wanted to disable the Alexa communication by putting it into a "de-provisioned" mode. I know, that's extremely annoying, isn't it?
Indeed, whether relaxing, cooking, or cleaning, Aussies and Kiwis are finally granted the literary license to listen to "even more of their favourite audiobooks throughout their day... simply by using their voice". Mashable has contacted Amazon for further comment.