Amazon calls it an “unlikely” string of events. But Alexa, the artificial intelligence-generated voice of Amazon’s Echo personal assistant device, goofed. As feared by many who don’t want the Echo in their homes, Alexa recorded a family’s private conversation—and then sent the recording to someone else.
A woman and her husband say they were contacted by one of her husband’s employees. He told them he had received an audio file of the married couple talking. Thankfully, the conversation was nothing too personal. The pair was discussing hardwood floors, the wife says.
But how was it captured and sent, and why?
According to Amazon, the Echo assistant device interpreted a word in the conversation as “Alexa.” That command makes the device wake up. It then interpreted another part of the conversation as “send message.” At that point, Amazon’s statement said, “Alexa said out loud, ‘To whom?’ and background conversation was interpreted as a name found in the couple’s contact list. Amazon then says that Alexa asked for confirmation to send the recording to that person, and interpreted something else in the conversation as the word “right,” directed to the Echo.
Amazon says it is “evaluating options to make this case even less likely” in the future.
The woman in the home says that every room in her family’s house is wired with Amazon devices to control heat, lights, and—believe it or not—security.
(AP Photo: An Amazon Echo device sites on a balcony outside an Amazon office in Seattle, Washington.)