SALT LAKE CITY — A couple from Portland, Oregon, complained to Amazon that their Alexa device recorded a conversation and sent it to the phone of someone they knew.
As KIRO-7 reported, the couple said the recording went to someone on their family’s contact list.
The couple said Amazon devices were installed throughout their house so they could control temperature, lights and security.
"My husband and I would joke and say I'd bet these devices are listening to what we're saying," the woman, named Danielle, told KIRO-7.
But Danielle said her opinion of Amazon changed when she received a call from one of her husband’s employees, who said he received a recorded conversation from the couple.
"We unplugged all of them (Amazon devices) and he proceeded to tell us that he had received audio files of recordings from inside our house," she said. "At first, my husband was, like, 'no you didn't!' And the (recipient of the message) said 'You sat there talking about hardwood floors.' And we said, 'oh gosh, you really did hear us.'"
She said she felt “invaded.”
The couple contacted Amazon about the problem.
"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.' 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!"
Amazon confirmed the report in a statement to Ars Technica.
“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.”
In March, Amazon's Alexa also faced scrutiny for randomly laughing at people, according to Business Insider.
"In rare circumstances, Alexa can mistakenly hear the phrase 'Alexa, laugh.' We are changing that phrase to be 'Alexa, can you laugh?' which is less likely to have false positives, and we are disabling the short utterance 'Alexa, laugh.' We are also changing Alexa's response from simply laughter to 'Sure, I can laugh' followed by laughter," Amazon said in a statement sent to Business Insider.
Both incidents highlight privacy concerns customers face when buying artificial intelligence devices, according to ZDNet. It’s also made people question whether devices are actually listening to them.
Interestingly, Yale privacy scholar Tiffany Li said on Twitter that Amazon doesn’t have a specific policy when it comes to the Amazon Echo or anything that could record information.