STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

How an Alexa speaker recorded and shared a private conversation

Alexa has many talents. Amazon's voice assistant can play music, set timers, order a pizza, and send recordings of pr...

Posted: May 25, 2018 10:13 AM
Updated: May 25, 2018 10:13 AM

Alexa has many talents. Amazon's voice assistant can play music, set timers, order a pizza, and send recordings of private conversations to random people in its users' contact list.

An Amazon Echo user in Portland, Oregon, says she was shocked to learn her Echo had recorded a conversation with her husband without them knowing, then sent the audio file to one of his employees in Seattle.

"My husband and I would joke and say I'd bet these devices are listening to what we're saying," the Echo owner Danielle told local news station KIRO 7. The news station did not report her last name.

She said the incident happened two weeks ago when the employee called them to say she'd received a strange voice recording of them.

"The person on the other line said, 'unplug your Alexa devices right now,'" she told KIRO. "'You're being hacked.'"

The audio recording included the couple talking about hardwood floors. Danielle said they turned off their multiple Echo smart speakers, contacted Amazon and spoke to an Alexa engineer, who apologized multiple times.

Related: Alexa is laughing at users and creeping them out

Amazon confirmed the error in a statement and explained the improbable series of events that took place for it to happen. It wasn't a hack or a bug with the device, but a case of Alexa's always-listening microphones mishearing a series of words and mistakenly sending a voice message.

"Echo woke up due to a word in background conversation sounding like 'Alexa.' Then, the subsequent conversation was heard as a 'send message' request," Amazon said in a statement. "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."

The Echo only confirms a contact name if there are multiple people in an address book with the same or similar sounding names.

It's unknown if the couple had the volume turned all the way down on their device or if they just didn't hear Alexa's multiple spoken replies during the message process. The colored ring on Echo speakers also lights up when the device is active.

While voice technology is increasingly popular, there are lingering concerns about privacy issues associated with having an internet-connected microphone in the home. Companies like Amazon and Google say their devices only begin recording when their microphones hear a trigger word or phrase, like "Alexa" or "Hey Google."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 98190

Reported Deaths: 2969
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7179161
DeSoto567863
Harrison391774
Jackson355370
Rankin334679
Madison333190
Lee280471
Forrest252476
Jones251580
Washington226379
Lafayette220840
Lauderdale2077126
Bolivar185770
Oktibbeha181152
Lamar174336
Lowndes159858
Neshoba1597104
Panola151231
Sunflower148546
Leflore142681
Warren141550
Pontotoc129316
Pike124953
Monroe124669
Copiah119933
Scott117727
Coahoma116730
Lincoln112353
Marshall111821
Holmes110060
Grenada109836
Yazoo106631
Simpson105047
Tate101238
Union100224
Leake96338
Adams94537
Wayne91221
Pearl River90953
Prentiss87918
Marion87136
Itawamba85021
Alcorn83211
Covington83023
George78413
Newton77824
Tallahatchie77724
Winston74619
Tishomingo70338
Chickasaw69224
Tippah68718
Attala67225
Clarke61048
Walthall60426
Clay59918
Hancock59522
Jasper58115
Noxubee55816
Smith54515
Calhoun52712
Tunica49915
Montgomery46920
Claiborne46516
Yalobusha44214
Lawrence43714
Perry42821
Greene38917
Quitman3875
Stone37913
Humphreys37715
Jefferson Davis34611
Amite34210
Webster33913
Carroll32312
Wilkinson30718
Kemper29115
Sharkey26614
Jefferson2429
Benton2333
Franklin1973
Choctaw1876
Issaquena1053
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 137564

Reported Deaths: 2399
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19938351
Mobile13507293
Montgomery8866185
Tuscaloosa8837118
Madison798179
Shelby607449
Lee597161
Baldwin560650
Marshall397543
Calhoun355644
Etowah354845
Morgan333428
Houston293921
Elmore271948
DeKalb244321
St. Clair235936
Walker235485
Talladega217830
Limestone214420
Cullman191920
Dallas179826
Franklin179130
Autauga178727
Russell17683
Lauderdale175133
Colbert167726
Blount162115
Escambia161624
Jackson159712
Chilton159530
Covington140727
Dale140344
Coffee13716
Pike121611
Chambers117542
Tallapoosa117185
Clarke110316
Marion97529
Butler91740
Barbour8867
Winston75013
Marengo72620
Pickens67014
Randolph66613
Lowndes65927
Bibb65810
Hale64928
Geneva6444
Lawrence63425
Cherokee61713
Bullock60714
Clay5918
Monroe5908
Washington56012
Crenshaw54332
Perry5426
Conecuh53911
Wilcox53211
Henry5105
Macon48318
Fayette4689
Sumter43719
Cleburne3945
Lamar3822
Choctaw35112
Greene30515
Coosa1743
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 81°
Columbus
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 79°
Oxford
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 79°
Starkville
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 79°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather