A woman from Portland in the US found out through a friend that her Amazon Echo had recorded a whole conversation that she had had with her husband at home on hardwood floors. Worse still: that conversation was forwarded to one of her contacts, an employee of her husband. It is the nightmare scenario for people who do not already have always listening digital assistants, but at first the woman did not believe the story.
When it turned out, however, that the acquaintance did not make up the story, the woman immediately pulled out all Echoes so that Alexa could no longer hear anything and contacted Amazon. Then as an outsider you could still think that it is a hoax meant to get the local news in Portland, but everyone was shocked Amazon soon with the report that the story is indeed so has completed as the woman said.
Further research by Amazon showed that Alexa was activated during the conversation of the family, somewhere heard the command ‘send message’ and then also heard the name of the contact, after which the Echo has started recording and has forwarded the call. Striking is the fact that the man and woman apparently did not hear at all that Alexa has asked for confirmation for all steps except the last one, which would mean that Amazon’s smart assistant should not actually be able to bake bread from what the couple said in the background. .
Well, digital assistants often have the idea that they are called when they are not, but if the device can ‘hear’ you as a user and make interpretations but you are far enough away that you have the response of the digital assistant can not hear there is still a mismatch.
The woman now wants nothing more to do with Alexa and has asked Amazon to take back the various Echoes in her house and give the family money back, but Amazon does not want that at the moment to. Logical, because the damage to the image is already enormous for Amazon and Alexa. The confidence of the woman is completely gone, however, and one message like this is enough for many people to say “I knew” and to reject the concept of an ever-listening piece of technology.
Amazon is now working to ensure that the same combination of circumstances is even less likely to occur, they say. If this is not fixed with a software patch tomorrow so to speak, confidence in the privacy that the Alexa users have left very quickly, and that Amazon can not afford in this busy race.