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How Amazon’s Alexa has shocked users

Alexa for Business, AWS
Amazon’s Alexa for Business

Amazon has said a that series of miscues picked up by one of its voice-activated Echo speakers during a couple’s private conversation resulted in the chat being recorded and sent to one of their acquaintances without their knowledge, Bloomberg has reported.

The firm responded on Wednesday to a KIRO 7 news report that the Oregon couple got a phone call recently from the acquaintance, one of the husband’s employees, saying “unplug your Alexa devices right now. You’re being hacked.” The couple used Amazon’s voice-activated devices throughout their home to control heat, lights and security, according to the news report.

Amazon said that The Echo woke after hearing a word in the couple’s conversation that sounded like “Alexa” – the usual trigger to begin recording. The speaker later heard “send message” during the conversation, at which point the device asked, “to whom?” The pair continued talking in the background and the Echo’s system interpreted part of the chat to identify a name in the couple’s contact list. Alexa then asked aloud if they wanted to send a message to that contact and heard “right” in more background conversation.

“As unlikely as this string of events is, we are evaluating options to make this case even less likely,” the company said.

The report invigorated privacy concerns as internet-connected devices like the Amazon Echo become ubiquitous in homes. Amazon in 2014 introduced the new line of devices, which can also stream music and order goods from Amazon via voice command.

It has been busy introducing updated versions and adding features to sell more devices than rivals like Alphabet Inc. and Apple Inc., which offer their own versions.

More than 60 million U.S. consumers will use a smart speaker at least once a month this year, with more than 40 million of them using Amazon’s devices, according to eMarketer Inc.

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