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A couple says that Amazon's Alexa recorded a private conversation and randomly sent it to a friend (AMZN)

Tech Insider logo Tech Insider 25/05/2018 Katie Canales

(Provided by: Wochit News)

  • A couple in Portland, Oregon, say their Amazon Alexa-powered devices in their home recorded a private conversation and sent it to a person in their contacts 176 miles away in Seattle.
  • They say the incident occurred about two weeks ago, KIRO-TV first reported.
  • The woman told KIRO-TV that the device had not audibly advised her that it was recording her conversation and sending it. 

A couple in Portland, Oregon, say that speakers in their home powered by Amazon's Alexa smart voice assistant recorded a private conversation and sent the recording to a person in their contacts.

A woman named Danielle says she and her husband got a call two weeks ago from the contact, who told them to immediately unplug all their devices because he had heard their conversation in his home 176 miles away in Seattle, KIRO-TV first reported. She said he proved it by providing details about the conversation, which was about hardwood floors.

a cup of coffee on a table: Alexa in the kitchen © Provided by Business Insider Inc Alexa in the kitchen

Amazon told the news station: "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."

"I felt invaded," Danielle told KIRO-TV. "A total privacy invasion. Immediately I said, 'I'm never plugging that device in again, because I can't trust it.'"

In a statement to Business Insider, Amazon explained exactly how it happened — the couple accidentally triggered Alexa's capability to send voice messages to friends and contacts.

Here's what happened, according to Amazon:

Amazon's Alexa © Reuters Amazon's Alexa

“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 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.”

Danielle said that after the person sent the recording, she and her husband unplugged each of the several Alexa devices in their house that they used to control things like their security system and lighting.

Danielle also said the device had not advised her that it was sending a recording of the conversation.

Amazon's Echo © AP Amazon's Echo

She said she called Amazon repeatedly until she was able to get in touch with an engineer, who apologized profusely and thanked her for bringing the incident to the company's attention but did not explain why the device sent the recording nor whether it was a widespread issue.

Danielle also says Amazon also offered to "de-provision" the Alexa-powered speakers, which basically means stripping their functions down to only smart-home features. She says Amazon has refused her requests to refund all of her devices.

This isn't the first time in recent memory that Alexa has come under scrutiny for unwanted behaviors. In March, Amazon had to adjust Alexa after finding it could laugh unsettlingly at random.

NOW SEE: Amazon's spy? 'Hey Alexa, admit how much you're secretly recording us'

© Washington Post

In Pictures: Amazon's Echo vs Google's Home: Here's how the two families stack up (Provided by: Business Insider)

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