Alexa Caught Spying on Users and Forwarding Recorded Conversations to Third Parties… Amazon says “oops”

by Scott Creighton

Thank you “Edward Snowden” and Glenn Greenwald. Without your help, CISPA would never have passed in congress. Good work.

The other day a man got a call from his employer’s Alexa system. Alexa is Amazon’s privatized home surveillance system which idiots install in their homes to make themselves feel hip and smart.

Alexa sent him a recording of a private conversation between his employer and his wife which proves the system not only listens to all things taking place inside one’s home… but records it, processes the information and then forwards it along to whatever assigned contact Amazon programs into it. In this case, it sent an employee of this family a conversation about hardwood floors.

A US couple was horrified to find out that their private conversation was recorded by Amazon’s Echo voice-controlled device and sent to a work contact. Amazon blamed the “extremely rare” incident on an unlikely sequence of events.

The family discovered that their Alexa virtual assistant had effectively briefly turned into an eavesdropping device only after they got a call from one of the husband’s employees, who told them he had received a recording of their private conversation, KIRO reported.

The immediate assumption of the employee was that the digital helper had somehow been hacked, as he called on them to shut all Echo devices down immediately. At first, the pair found it hard to believe that the smart-speaker might pull such a trick single-handedly and send their conversation to some random contact.

“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,” the wife, identified only as Danielle, told the site.

She said the pair had unplugged all Echo devices that they relied on to control heating, lights and security at home. Immediately after, she contacted Amazon. An engineer tasked with checking her activity logs confirmed her account of events and repeatedly apologized for the mishap. In a written statement to KIRO, Amazon called the incident “an extremely rare occurrence,” vowing to take measures never to let this happen again.

In a more detailed explanation of what could have provoked the ‘glitch,’ the company told TechCrunch that Alexa, which is supposed to be activated upon hearing its ‘name,’ had most likely mistaken some of the words in the conversation for an eerily coincidental string of commands.

“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,’” Amazon explained.

However, the woman that lives in Portland, Oregon, has said that she did not hear the smart-speaker trying to warn her that it was about to send the recording.” RT

Uh… no. The system did not misinterpret what the family was talking about and warn them it was about to record “the message” and it did not misinterpret their conversation as a command to then send said conversation to someone on his contact list.

It records EVERYTHING and evaluates said private communications and then sends them to a SEPARATE contact list, hidden from the owner of the system. In this case, it screwed up, probably because that contact’s name or number was close to one on the undisclosed contact list.

Understandably, the wife feels violated and disconnected all of the Alexa equipment in her home. I guess she started wondering what else the damn thing recorded and sent on to other contacts.

She then demanded Amazon refund all her money for the system, which they promptly refused and then tried to get her to plug it all back in so they could KEEP SPYING ON HER.

“The woman, who said she “felt invaded” by a sudden and utterly uncalled-for breach of privacy on the part of Amazon, has not been satisfied with expletive apologies and demanded a full refund for the Amazon’s invading services, something the online giant refuses to provide, KIRO cited her as saying.

“I’m never plugging that device in again, because I can’t trust it,” she stressed.

Instead, Amazon reportedly offered the family to remove Alexa’s communications feature, so their use of Echo systems will be limited exclusively to smart home applications.” RT

Yeah. Would trust the company that was secretly spying on you and recording every sound in your home to “remove” the recording feature of their system? Of course you wouldn’t. Especially after all they want is for you to shut up and plug the damn thing back in.

Remarkable.

Hate too say I told you so… but…

2 Responses

  1. It’s being called “Spylexa” now.

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