Above image from Verge.com
A Portland family’s Amazon Echo recorded a private conversation and sent it to one of their employees without their consent.
Danielle, who’s last name was held private, was discussing with her husband a private conversation that included a discussion on wood flooring. The Amazon Echo device recorded it, sent it to her husband’s employee who then contacted the couple concerned that their device was “hacked”.
In an interview USA Today, Amazon offered the following explanation:
The Echo woke up when someone in the home said something that sounded to it like “Alexa.”
Next, the subsequent conversation included something that, to Alexa, sounded like a “send a message” request.
At which point, Alexa said out loud, “To whom?”
Next, Alexa interpreted the background conversation as a name in the customers’ contact list.
Alexa then asked, again out loud, “[Contact name], right?”
Alexa then interpreted background conversation as confirming with, “Right.”
In my opinion the probability of a flooring conversation triggering all these prompts is one in a billion and I suspect these smart home devices are always on and the trigger words prompt a second order task.
Which brings us to the question, do all smart devices record our every sound?
Multiple testimonials have arisen of people finding ads pop up on their social media moments after having a private conversation in their office or home.
An “OK Google” or “Hey Siri” can prompt a listening feature as well, and many sounds, dialects, or word groupings may dupe the technology. Some have reported a “Lake Erie” or “No noodles!” has triggered their phones to respond back. If speakers are at a farther distance from the device or overshadowed by other conversations, fumbled word receptions may occur.
CBS News reported the following:
Google and Facebook have both denied using cellphone microphones to collect information for ads. In a statement, Google wrote: “We do not use ambient sound from any device to target ads.” While Facebook didn’t respond to our request for comment, it’s previously said: “We show ads based on people’s interests and other profile information — not what you’re talking out loud about.”
So we want to believe that we’re safe, but the possibility of our private work meetings, dinners, or drives to the in-laws can house evidence of bad mouthing is frightening beyond words. So this loud mouth is going to start keeping quiet when technology is around…..