A family in Portland, Oregon faced a privacy breach when their Alexa device sent their private conversations to a random contact on the phone of a family member. Every room in the house had an Alexa device. They were using the devices to monitor and control the heat, light and security system. Danielle told, “My husband and I would joke and say I’d bet these devices are listening to what we’re saying.”
Two weeks ago, she got a phone call that sounded like a conspiracy thriller. She told, “The person on the other line said, ‘unplug your Alexa devices right now. You’re being hacked.” The person on the phone was not a rogue government agent. It was an employee of her husband who was living in Seattle. The man told that he had been sent audio files of their private conversation. Danielle and her husband were not believing the things that they were told but then he said, “You sat there talking about hardwood floors.”
Danielle called Amazon repeatedly to inquire about the situation and get an explanation. After several calls she found a CSR officer, she told, “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.’ 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 Alexa enabled devices can record and send audio files but they need a voice command to do so. Danielle said that she never gave any such commands.
Amazon said, “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.” Amazon also volunteered the solution of “de-provisioning” the communication features of Danielle’s Echo so she can still make use of some features. Danielle was expecting a refund, however, the company is not going that far.