Amazon Echo secretly records and sends private conversation without permission

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An Amazon Echo user in Portland, Oregon, says she was shocked to learn her Echo had recorded a conversation with her husband without them knowing, then sent the audio file to one of his employees in Seattle.

The friend who received the audio files called the family to warn them that their device was sending private recordings, detailing what was said in the conversation he listened in on.

In its statement, the USA tech giant said the conversation had been inadvertently recorded and sent because the Echo device interpreted a word in the background conversation as "Alexa" - a command that triggers recording.

She said the pair had unplugged all Echo devices that they relied on to control heating, lights and security at home. They were still skeptical until her husband's employee described the exact conversation they had had about hardwood floors, Danielle said.

Amazon in its response to Kiro 7 said this was an extremely rare occurrence and it was investigating the incident.

"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?" "You are being hacked", is what the caller told Danielle and her husband, who have an Amazon Echo speaker in their home.

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This would seem to confirm that Alexa is recording at least snippets of conversation without using the wake word, but Amazon is insisting this isn't the case. It also sounds like Amazon might have a real Alexa to fix.

Amazon and Google say their speakers are created to record audio only when activated with a trigger word, such as "Alexa" or "Hey Google".

Amazon confirmed the woman's conversation had been inadvertently recorded and sent, blaming an "unlikely" string of events for the error.

The engineer did not explain why it happened, though.

Ryan Calo, an associate law professor at the University of Washington, said the incident was alarming since a private conversation had been recorded and sent to a third party. The family is looking for a full refund on all of the Alexa products, but Amazon has merely offered to "de-provision" the family's Alexa communications. Immediately I said, "I'm never plugging that device in again, because I can't trust it"', she added. Back in March this year, Alexa was in news after it made random creepy laughs. Amazon is yet to clarify this, but many users of the home speakers will ask whether there are cases where Alexa could be recording without their explicit permission. Then in between the couple's conversation, Alexa heard the request to "send message" by mistake.