Despite its popularity and growing presence in most households, Amazon's Alexa grabs headlines as it secretly records and shares the private conversation of its owner.
Privacy Concerns Over The Virtual Assistant
The incident reportedly happened in Portland, Oregon when KRIO CBS 7 News reported that a local woman believes her Amazon Echo Dot was hacked. The owner claims the device recorded their conversation as they talked about hardwood floors, e-mailing a copy of the recording to a random individual listed on the contact list thereafter.
Luckily, the one who received the audio clips is an employee of the husband, who immediately sent back a copy of the files. A friend advised the couple to immediately unplug all of their devices to prevent the same issue.
Amazon Explains The Issue
The couple wasted no time to contact Amazon about the odd Alexa case and requested a full refund on all of their existing compatible products. This prompted the online retailer's engineering team to scan all of the activity logs of the device. The tech team notes that there were indications that the Echo Dot was possibly modified, but no further details were provided to the owner.
The team behind the investigation speculates that a word might have been spoken during the couple's conversation that could have sounded like "Alexa." This then activated the machine's virtual assistant and the dialogue that followed soon after contained certain commands, which completed the request. This implies that it is a very rare case and that the engineers will find a way to prevent the same case in the future.
Popularity And Its Fair Share Of Problems
Among the available virtual assistants from various manufacturers, Amazon's Alexa is currently the most adopted by consumers and third-party manufacturers. Almost all smart devices available in the market rely on the cleverly programmed artificial intelligence to get things done. With its wide exposure, there are instances wherein it does not exactly work as expected.
Folks over on Digital Trends reported an incident where a 6-year-old Dallas girl interacted with her family's Echo Dot and talked about a dollhouse and cookies. Subsequently, it led to placing an order online for a $170 dollhouse, along with 7 pounds of cookies. The girl's mother eventually found out about it when she received the confirmation e-mail from Amazon.
News of the previous case circulated on the net and ended up being reported by CW-6, a California television channel.
"I love the little girl saying, 'Alexa, order me a dollhouse,'" said Jim Patton, the news anchor.
Patton's statement apparently activated Alexa-enabled devices of those who tuned in to the show and placed orders for a dollhouse. Order cancellation requests immediately followed after smart speaker owners received confirmation e-mails.
The Technology Is Evolving
Just like other virtual assistants, Amazon's Alexa relies on machine learning to improve its service. The recent incident makes consumers ask questions regarding privacy.
On the other hand, Google Assistant made a splash recently when it showcased the upcoming Duplex service at 2018 I/O keynote. The demonstration drew mixed reactions from the public and presented a possibility where the AI will eventually take over voice-related jobs in the near future.