A Woman Claims Her Amazon Alexa Device Recorded a Conversation and Shared It With a Random Friend

May 24, 2018, 6:44 PM UTC

An Oregon woman says her Amazon Alexa device recorded a private conversation and shared it with a random contact of hers in Seattle, local TV news station KIRO 7 reports.

The incident came to light two weeks ago, when the Portland-area woman who identified herself as ‘Danielle’ received a call from one of her husband’s Seattle-based employees, who told her to unplug her Alexa devices immediately.

“He had received audio files — recordings — from what was going on in our house,” said Danielle, who was interviewed on camera by KIRO, but asked the news outlet not to use her last name.

At first, Danielle and her husband were in disbelief, but then the employee described at least one of the private conversations their Amazon Alexa device allegedly recorded about hardwood floors.

“I felt invaded — like total privacy invasion,” Danielle told KIRO in a Skype interview.

Amazon and other companies with voice-enabled assistants, have pushed back on the notion that products like Amazon Echo are eavesdropping, by assuring consumers that the devices only listen for certain “wake words” before recording any audio. In Amazon’s case, Alexa compatible devices “wake up” when they hear “Alexa,” “Amazon,” “Echo,” or “Computer,” depending on your settings or hardware.

But the notion that they aren’t recording conversations whatsoever is wrong — Amazon has even unlocked capabilities that allow Amazon Echos to record conversations and send them to Alexa-compatible devices in other rooms of the same building, essentially acting as an intercom system. The company also has said it will record and share conversations with developers to help improve their services. But it’s noteworthy that the company said it will not share personally identifiable information in those instances.

Upon hearing her conversations repeated by her contact, Danielle immediately unplugged all the Amazon Echo devices in her home.

“It was one of these that sent it,” she said, holding up half a dozen Amazon Echo Dots on a Skype interview with KIRO.

Danielle called Amazon, and the company reportedly went through her account’s logs and agreed that Amazon Alexa had recorded her conversations and indeed shared them.

“Our engineers went through all of your logs, they saw exactly what you told us, exactly what you said happened, and we’re sorry,” Danielle said a company engineer told her. “He apologized 15 times in a matter of 30 minutes and said ‘We really appreciate you bringing this to our attention; this is something we need to fix.'”

When reached for comment by Fortune, Amazon explained that Danielle’s Echo heard words in the background that made it send the message. According to KIRO, the company issued this response:

Amazon takes privacy very seriously. We investigated what happened and determined this was an extremely rare occurrence. We are taking steps to avoid this from happening in the future.

According to KIRO reporting, Amazon said the issue was “very, very rare.”

“My husband and I would randomly joke sometimes, ‘I bet these devices are listening to what we’re saying,'” said Danielle, who has requested a refund for her Amazon Alexa devices.

This story has been updated to include an explanation from Amazon.

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