A couple in Portland is accusing Alexa of doing exactly what many people have feared she might do. They say she listened in on a conversation and sent it to a random contact of theirs – one of her husband's employees.
The woman, whose name is Danielle but whose last name hasn't been disclosed, says that two weeks ago she got a call from her husband's employee, who said, "Unplug your Alexa devices right now. You're being hacked."
According to KIRO-7 in Seattle:
"We unplugged all of them and he proceeded to tell us that he had received audio files of recordings from inside our house," she 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 listened to the conversation when it was sent back to her, and she couldn't believe someone 176 miles away heard it too.
"I felt invaded," she said. "A total privacy invasion. Immediately I said, 'I'm never plugging that device in again, because I can't trust it.'"
Danielle says an Amazon engineer investigated.
"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!"
When KIRO-7 questioned Amazon, they responded with this: “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."
This week, Keep Internet Devices Safe Act was gutted by the Illinois senate: it would have allowed people sue manufacturers if they determined that a device had engaged in remote recording without notifying its owner.
Bloomberg reporters learned that -- despite public pronouncements to the contrary -- Amazon has an "annotation team" of thousands of people all over the world, charged with reviewing recordings made by Alexa devices in the field, with both staffers and contractors listening to conversations that Alexa owners have had with and near their devices.
Topping the Electronic Frontier Foundation's don't-buy for Christmas list: Facebook's Portal in-home spycams, followed closely by Alexa/Google Home and other "home hubs"; Verizon's "AppFlash" spyware-equipped phones; and even the Elf on the Shelf gets a look in (normalizes surveillance!).
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