Like something out of a Ray Bradbury short story, reports came this week that an Amazon Echo recorded a Portland, Ore. family’s conversations and sent them to a business colleague — without the family’s knowledge. Coming on the heels of information that Alexa has been “creepy laughing,” the device has people spooked.
Amazon has since explained how the accident happened, telling Recode, “Echo woke up due to a word in background conversation sounding like ‘Alexa.’ Then, the subsequent conversation was heard as a ‘send message’ request.” Alexa, Amazon’s personal assistant across several devices, asked follow up questions but misheard random background conversation as answers. The family was unaware of what happened until their colleague informed them. Luckily, the conversation was mostly just about hardwood floors.
While the internet has been freaking out about their appliances turning into the scary end of a science fiction movie, it has also unearthed a few reassuring ways you can ensure this never happens to you.
USA Today reports that a fool-proof way of ensuring your privacy is simply not to set up the feature that allows Echo to make calls. This is an opt-in feature, a similar variation of which is available for Google Home users.
The feature is fairly popular, with over a quarter of users making calls at least monthly. If you consider the calling feature, which works across Alexa devices or for any number in your contact list, an important tool, you can still take precaution by being careful about using the device’s wake-up word. If you keep the device in sight where you can readily tell if it’s accidentally woken up, you should be fine.
Amazon is taking the matter seriously, confirming to Recode, “As unlikely as this string of events is, we are evaluating options to make this case even less likely.”