Amazon has been forced to apologise following a malfunction with its AI speaker's voice assistant Alexa caused it to record a user's private conversation and send it to a contact.
An Echo customer in Portland, US, told Washington state TV station KIRO 7 that the device had recorded a conversation she'd had with her husband and shared it with one of the latter's employees in Seattle.
Amazon has apologised profusely after it learned of the gaff, explaining how it probably happened: "Echo woke up due to a word in background conversation sounding like 'Alexa.' Then, the subsequent conversation was heard as a 'send message' request," Amazon said in a statement.
"At which point, Alexa said out loud 'To whom?' At which point, the background conversation was interpreted as a name in the customers contact list. Alexa then asked out loud, '[contact name], right?' Alexa then interpreted background conversation as 'right'. As unlikely as this string of events is, we are evaluating options to make this case even less likely."
The user, who goes by the name of Danielle, said she didn't realise her conversation had been recorded until her husband's co-worker contacted her about it. She explained that she immediately felt "invaded" and described the incident as a "total privacy invasion," adding that she was never plugging the device in again.
"We unplugged all of them and he proceeded to tell us that he had received audio files of recordings from inside our house," said wife Danielle. "At first, my husband was, like, 'no you didn't!' And the (recipient of the message) 'You sat there talking about hardwood floors.' And we said, 'oh gosh, you really did hear us," she told KIRO-TV in Seattle.
Amazon, however, said this was an "extremely rare occurrence".
Danielle was hoping to receive a refund for her Alexa devices, but has said that representatives were unwilling to do so.
This isn't the first time that Amazon Echo has been accused of some weird behaviour. After launch, Echo was sensitive to any voice in the room, even if it came from the TV or radio, which led to lots of dolls houses being automatically ordered after a story on the news.
More recently there have been reports of Alexa also randomly and maniacally laughing. This is understood to have been caused by another language misinterpretation.
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