Amazon Admits That ‘Alexa’ Devices Were Spying On One Family’s Conversation

When it comes to technology, we own so many devices that it’s hard to keep up with them all.
Just think about it–you probably have a phone, a smart TV, a smartwatch, a laptop/computer, a tablet, and many of you have a “home device” like Amazon Alexa or Google Home. We all know that sometimes, companies who own these devices “listen to us” AKA use our habits/information for monetary purposes–like ad sales, product pushing, etc. It’s just facts. While we know people may be “listening” to us, we never truly have it shown to us in our faces, in plain sight. Except, one Portland family did–and it’s making me want to chuck my own Amazon device into the Hudson River.

One couple from Portland told KIRO TV that they used to “joke around” about their devices listening in on their conversations. But, one day when they were having a conversation in their home–they got a text from the husband’s employee saying:

Unplug your Alexa devices right now. You’re being hacked.

According to the employee, he received “audio files” of the couple’s conversation. The husband didn’t believe him–because, it’s a bit much. But, the employee was able to explain everything the couple was talking about–specifically hardwood floors (not the most common of topics).

The couple was clearly disturbed and contacted Amazon about the issue. They said:

Amazon 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.” He apologized like 15 times in a matter of 30 minutes and he said we really appreciate you bringing this to our attention. This is something we need to fix!”

When media companies reached out to Amazon for a statement, they told CNET:

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.”

Seems a bit fishy to me–maybe I should start unplugging my own Alexa when I’m having important conversations…just in case.