However those fears might have been proven true, according to a report from KIRO7 in which a family in Portland claims that their Amazon Echo device not only recorded their conversation, but also sent it to a random person on their contact list. The family had wired their entire home with Amazon Echo devices which they used to control various smart gadgets.
However one day they received a call from one of the husband’s employees who told them he received recordings of their conversation, which they managed to verify. The family then contacted Amazon in which one of Alexa’s engineers apologized repeatedly. Amazon also offered to “de-provision” Alexa’s communications feature which would allow the family to continue using the devices only for controlling their smart home gadgets, but the family refused and is seeking a refund, something that Amazon is apparently unwilling to do.
According to a statement made to Engadget, Amazon explained how this occurred. “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.”
This is actually not the first time Amazon’s Alexa has been accidentally activated. Last year during a news broadcast, several Alexa users reported that they were prompted to buy dollhouses from Amazon following comments made on TV. There was also the case from earlier this year where Alexa supposedly started to laugh at random when in reality it was accidentally triggered by certain phrases made to sound like commands.