Amazon Responds to Alexa Privacy Breach Controversy

By Nitish Singh / May 26, 2018

Amazon had internet users lashing out at Alexa smart speakers because of an incident surrounding one of the e-commerce company’s smart speakers. A family from Portland claimed that their Echo smart speaker recorded and sent a private conversation to a contact. With smart speakers from Amazon becoming more popular than ever, smart speakers often raise concerns about privacy because of such incidents.

According to the users of the malfunctioning Echo device, the family was having a conversation between members that had nothing to do with Alexa voice commands. One of many Echo devices in the home recorded the conversation and sent it to an employee of a family member without any intentional voice commands sent to Alexa. The recipient notified the family of the voice files he received, which led to the family asking for refunds on all of their Alexa devices. Amazon refused to entertain the family’s request and only offered to remove any data that the company has on the devices from Amazon servers.

Amazon Echo

Image Courtesy of Amazon

The story surfaced on the internet today, and Amazon has already responded to concerned users regarding the incident. Amazon’s statement claimed that the Echo device woke up due to a voice command that was interpreted as “send a message”. Alexa responded to the command with a query asking for the recipient of the message. The background noise in the home was picked up as a contact name by the AI assistant, leading to a private conversation being sent to one of the employees of a family member.

Amazon has promised to work towards avoiding such incidents in the future by making changes to Alexa’s code for better voice recognition. The voice assistant receives constant updates through over-the-air patches, and the Echo devices are likely to receive updates to change how background noise is interpreted by the AI.

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