Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Amazon Alexa Shares Private Records
PORTLAND, OREGON – May 24, 2018
A recent incident indicates that smart home recording devices endanger your privacy.
A family in Portland, Oregon reports that an Amazon Alexa device recorded a private conversation and randomly sent it to a contact in Seattle."My husband and I would joke and say, 'I'd bet these devices are listening to what we're saying,'" said Danielle, who did not want to use her last name.
The contact, one of her husband's employees, called her family from Seattle to tell them that their privacy was being compromised."The person on the other line said, 'Unplug your Alexa devices right now,'" she said. "'You're being hacked.'"
"We unplugged all of them, and he proceeded to tell us that he had received audio files of recordings from inside our house," Danielle 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.'"
Danielle repeatedly called Amazon. She says an Alexa engineer investigated.
"They said, 'Our engineers went through your logs, and 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!'"
"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.'" She says Amazon has refused to provide a refund and still has not explained how the incident actually occurred.
"He (engineer) told us that the device just guessed what we were saying," she said. Danielle said the device did not audibly advise her it was preparing to send the recording, something it’s programmed to do.