PORTLAND, Ore. – An Oregon family has unplugged all of their Amazon devices after they say the voice-controlled speakers secretly recorded them and sent audio files to one of their contacts living in Seattle.
A woman named Danielle, who declined to give her last name, told KIRO that she and her husband used to joke about Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa spying on them, until they got a disturbing phone call.
“Unplug your Alexa devices right now, you’re being hacked,” Danielle recalled the voice saying. The caller turned out to be someone who worked for her husband. They were still skeptical until her husband’s employee described the exact conversation they had had about hardwood floors, Danielle said.
Even more concerning, the family had installed Alexa in every room of their home to take care of the security system, lighting and other functions, according to KIRO.
After unplugging all of the speakers, the family reached out to Amazon to figure out what was going on.
“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,’” Danielle told KIRO. “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!”
An Amazon spokesperson told the Washington Post in an email that the family’s Echo perceived a word as “Alexa,” kicking off an “unlikely” series of events. A sentence in the following conversation sounded like “send message,” and, after the virtual assistant asked who the recipient should be, Alexa chose a contact and sent a message based on what it heard.
“I felt invaded,” Danielle said. “A total privacy invasion. Immediately I said, ‘I’m never plugging that device in again, because I can’t trust it.’”
KIRO received the following statement:
“Amazon takes privacy very seriously. We investigated what happened and determined this was an extremely rare occurrence. We are taking steps to avoid this from happening in the future.”