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Amazon Alexa secretly recorded family's conversations, sent to random contact

(Associated Press)

PORTLAND, Ore. – It appears that the more technology evolves, the creepier it gets.

A Portland, Oregon family is upset after a private conversation they had inside their home was recorded by an Amazon Alexa device and sent to a random person on the family's contact list.

KIRO reports the family's home is completely wired with the devices to control the heat, light and security system.

Two weeks ago, the wife of the family received an alarming phone call from one of her husband's employees.

"The person on the other line said, 'unplug your Alexa devices right now,'" the woman named Danielle told the station. "'You're being hacked.'"

The person sent Danielle a recording of the conversation and she was shocked at what she heard.

"I felt invaded," she said. "A total privacy invasion. Immediately I said, 'I'm never plugging that device in again, because I can't trust it.'"

The family immediately unplugged all the Amazon devices and called the company to complain.

Amazon investigated the issue and confirmed the family's report. A company engineer apologized, but did not provide any details about what went wrong.

KIRO asked Amazon for a response to the investigation and was told that the company "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."

Danielle says Amazon has been unwilling to give the family a refund for the devices.

For the family, what were once silly thoughts became a scary reality.

"My husband and I would joke and say I'd bet these devices are listening to what we're saying," Danielle says.

Amazon Corporate Communications sent an e-mail with a statement to Local 10 News Thursday night. 

"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 customer’s 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."


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