A family in Portland, Oregon, claims that their Alexa, a voice-controlled smart speaker by Amazon, eavesdropped on their conversation and then shared it. They called the company to investigate the issue and vowed never to use the device again.
“My husband and I would joke and say I’d bet these devices are listening to what we’re saying,” Danielle, who did not give her last name, told KIRO-TV on Thursday.
She said her family was shocked to find out that a talk they had in their home was sent to one of their contacts hundreds of miles away in Seattle, Washington.
The family has the voice-controlled smart devices installed in every room, which they use to control the heat, lights, and security system in their home. However, the family’s affinity toward Alexa changed after they received a phone call from a friend who provided details on the conversation.
“We unplugged all of them and he proceeded to tell us that he had received audio files of recordings from inside our house,” she told the news outlet. “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.'”
Danielle said after the person replayed the voice note, she disconnected all the devices and contacted Amazon. The company assured her that they would investigate the situation.
“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,'” she said.
“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!”
However, the woman claimed that the company failed to give details regarding the privacy breach and what may have caused the device to act that way.
The online retail giant apologized and proposed to “de-provision” the device’s communications so that the family could continue to use its other features. But Danielle said that wasn’t enough and hoped to get a refund.
“Amazon takes privacy very seriously,” a company representative told KIRO. “We investigated what happened and determined this was an extremely rare occurrence. We are taking steps to avoid this from happening in the future.”
Danielle’s case is not uncommon as eavesdropping has been an issue for users in the past. Amazon’s smart voice assistant Echo reportedly had a coding flaw that could let hackers use the product to listen to private conversations, CNET reported in April. The company said it has since fixed the issue.