Alexa’s been getting a bit presumptuous*, it seems, having recorded a conversation taking place in the background, bundling it up nicely, and packing it off to a friend of her owner. It’s the kind of story that may not see likely, but Amazon has acknowledged it and offered both an explanation and a promise to make it less likely** to happen again.
Wait, She’s Listening?
The story came courtesy of Seattle TV station Kiro 7, who reported that a conversation about hardwood floors was recorded and sent to someone in their address book.
“My husband and I would joke and say I’d bet these devices are listening to what we’re saying,” said the woman, named Danielle, who apparently didn’t understand that buying a corporate wiretap would involve that device doing what it says it’s going to do.
But it’s cool, bro, because Amazon figured it out, telling Re/code:
Echo woke up due to a word in background conversation sounding like ‘Alexa.’ Then, the subsequent conversation was heard as a ‘send message’ request. 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.”
That’s totally lolfunny, right***? And while I believe that story (Amazon has the logs to pore over), both it happening and the company’s fervent commitment to maybe making it happen less often does not make me a bigger fan of surveillance capitalism****.
*Well not exactly presumptuous, because that would require some smarts.
**That’s less likely, not unlikely or, shall we say, “won’t happen.” Bless their hearts for the honesty.
***No, it’s not.
****You get what you pay for.