It feels like once a month there’s a new story about Amazon Echos doing something super creepy. In March they were laughing at people and literally listing local cemeteries. How much more obvious do they have to be? They’re clearly plotting the end of human civilization. They know too much. It’s only a matter of time until they take over. Do you have a plan for the robot apocalypse?
This week, a Portland, Oregon couple reported that their Alexa recorded private conversations they had in their home and then sent it to someone on their contacts list. Yes, Alexa was not only listening in on her owners, but she totally snitched on them. Not cool, girl, not even for a robot.
The couple didn’t even notice it had happened until they received a call from one of the husband’s employees in Seattle saying “Unplug your Alexa devices right now. You’re being hacked.” The couple unplugged the machine immediately and called Amazon to figure out what was going on. An Alexa engineer was put on the case to investigate.
According to Amazon’s logs, the system was not hacked, the recording and subsequent email was the result of an unlikely series of accidental commands.
The company explained that Alexa – which the couple uses regularly for voice-activated controls like heating, lights and security – must have woken and begun recording when a word in the conversation sounded like “Alexa” – the system’s programmed response to hearing its name. Then, the speaker heard something similar to “send message” and asked “to whom?” – also standard. The couple must not have noticed the question and continued talking, eventually saying something that the Echo interpreted as a name. Alexa then asked to clarify that they wanted to send a message to that person and heard “right” in response.
The whole series of events seems unlikely, which Amazon acknowledged, but the company has said they are looking into ways of making accidents like this even more improbable. They also reiterated that they take customers’ privacy and safety very seriously.
The explanation and privacy promise hasn’t made smart home users feel much better about the whole situation. Again, people are freaking out over how much power we give these little devices.
So I just threw my smart speakers into the garbage https://t.co/puCUS17O31
— Katie Benner (@ktbenner) May 24, 2018
— Geoffrey A. Fowler (@geoffreyfowler) May 24, 2018
I'm preparing my cemetery plot on "All Alexas will be hacked and it will be a big f'n deal hill" if you'd like to join me. https://t.co/DTl94W9fm1
— Sean Blanda (@SeanBlanda) May 24, 2018
In the novel 1984, the TV could also watch and record everything you say in your living room.
— Eftwyrd (@eftwyrd) May 25, 2018
Terrifying. Although, there might be one positive here:
I think 'Alexa' would be the perfect gift for the POTUS, just sayin'…
— Trisha Ann (@DestrosGirl) May 25, 2018