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Amazon Echo secretly sent family’s private audio to some random person

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An accident, but a freaky one nonetheless.
An accident, but a freaky one nonetheless.

Image: mashable/lili sams

There’s been deep concern that AI voice assistants might be always listening, and for one Oregon family, their Amazon Echo reportedly did just that.

As first reported by local station KIRO-7, the smart speaker recorded private audio and sent it to a random person’s phone that happened to be on the family’s contact list.

The family had an Echo device in every room of their house, which controlled the heat, light, and security system in their home. 

Danielle, going only by her first name, received a phone call two weeks ago by one of her husband’s colleagues, who had received the voice recording.

They listened to the recording, which was of the couple discussing hardwood floors, and they contacted Amazon. An Alexa engineer responded.

“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,'” Danielle told the news outlet.

“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!”

Although the engineer didn’t provide specifics to Danielle as to what had happened, an Amazon statement provided to Mashable confirmed the incident and said the device heard a command. 

“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?'” according to the statement.

“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.”

While an accident, it’s still a freaky one nonetheless. Mashable has contacted Amazon for further comment.

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