Amazon confirms Echo device shared user’s private conversation

SEATTLE — An Amazon Echo device secretly shared a user’s private conversation, the tech giant confirmed Thursday.

A Portland, Oregon, family contacted Amazon after the voice-controlled smart speaker sent a recording of a private conversation to a woman in Seattle, according to KIRO.

While the Seattle woman was in the Portland users’ contact list, they had no intention of sharing the conversation about hardwood floors.

The woman contacted the family after she suspected their device had been hacked.

The Portland house was completely wired with Amazon Echo devices, according to one of its owners, who only wanted to be identified as Danielle. She said she unplugged all of the devices after receiving the call from the Seattle acquaintance.

“I felt invaded,” she told KIRO. “A total privacy invasion. Immediately I said, ‘I’m never plugging that device in again, because I can’t trust it.'”

ÔÇťAmazon takes privacy very seriously,” the company said in a statement. “We investigated what happened and determined this was an extremely rare occurrence. We are taking steps to avoid this from happening in the future.”

The company also provided a statement to Ars Technica, saying a phrase in the conversation prompted Alexa — the smart speaker’s virtual assistant — to activate.

“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,” Amazon said.

The Portland couple said they want a refund for the devices, but Amazon’s representatives have not agreed to provide one.

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