Amazon home assistant recorded and sent private conversation to third party, says Portland woman

Why do people have these infernal contraptions in their homes?

Every room in her family home was wired with the Amazon devices to control her home's heat, lights and security system.

But Danielle said two weeks ago their love for Alexa changed with an alarming phone call. "The person on the other line said, 'unplug your Alexa devices right now,'" she said. "'You're being hacked.'"

That person was one of her husband's employees, calling from 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.'"

Amazon support reportedly admitted that it happened, but could or would not tell her how. "Hacked" seems like hyperbole to me, but the way voice assistants are designed means–much like Facebook–that it's intentionally easy to get it watching you but hard to know what it's up to.

"Dark patterns" are those where a user interface is explicitly designed to fool the user into doing something they don't want. There should be a word for when poor UI design allows reasonable user behavior to result in nasty outcomes that the designer should have anticipated. Voice assistants that don't look for obvious signs they're not actually being talked to, for example. Or whatever awful arse made it so CTRL-Q and CTRL-W were right next to each other.