A digital misinterpretation occurred in Portland, Oregon, between a family and the husband’s employee. Amazon Echo recorded a conversation and sent it randomly to a contact, the employee. As reported, several such audio files have been recorded and sent to the same mistakenly.
Amazon takes privacy very seriously. We investigated what happened and determined this was an extremely rare occurrence. We are taking steps to avoid this from happening in the future – Amazon
The family has a setup of Alexa-equipped household devices for heat, lights, and security. After the incident, they unplugged all the devices and contacted Amazon. A representative of the company who spoke with the wife said that their engineers went through the logs and saw what exactly happened that matched with the consumer description.
The company apologized about 15 times within the 30-minute call to the wife, expressing thankfulness for bringing this to their attention. They added that they would fix it all.
The family is now seeking a full refund, although Amazon offered to de-provision their Alexa communications for continuing to use the smart home functionalities.
Amazon explained exactly what happened, and it is all about misinterpreting the background chatters of the family by the smart home device. According to the company, this is how it all played: “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, we are evaluating options to make this case even less likely.”
While this is a call to the new users of smart home devices to be a bit more careful about their devices, we do hope that such incidents don’t happen in the future.