It has been claimed by a family in Oregon US that their Alexa device eavesdropped on one of their conversations and then proceeded to share it.
The family contacted the Amazon, the maker of the voice-controlled smart speaker to report the issue and promised never to use the device again.
The issue was highlighted when a friend contacted the family to tell them they had received their conversation hundreds of miles away in Seattle, Washington.
A voice-controlled smart device was installed in every room of the family home which they said they used to control the heat, lights, and security systems. These were soon removed when the family learnt of the privacy breach.
The mother of the family Danielle told KIRO-TV, “We unplugged all of them and he proceeded to tell us that he had received audio files of recordings from inside our house,” she told the news outlet. “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.”
After contacting Amazon they said, “they would investigate the situation”.
Danielle explained, “They 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!”
Amazon representatives failed to inform the family details regarding the privacy breach and what may have caused the device to go rogue.
A spokesman for Amazon said, “Amazon takes privacy very seriously,” a company representative told KIRO. “We investigated what happened and determined this was an extremely rare occurrence. We are taking steps to avoid this from happening in the future.”
Although Amazon offered to “de-provision” the device’s communications so that the family could continue to use its other features, Danielle wasn’t interested and she hoped to get a full refund.
This case is not uncommon as CNET reported in April that Amazon’s smart voice assistant Echo suffered from a coding flaw that allowed hackers to listen to private conversations.