In a creepy invasion of privacy, a Portland, Oregon, couple whose home had every room wired with Amazon’s Alexa to control the home’s heat, lights and security system, discovered their private conversations were sent to a random person on their contact list.
Speaking to KIRO-TV, Danielle, who preferred to keep her last name private, said, “My husband and I would joke and say, ‘I’d bet these devices are listening to what we’re saying.’”
Roughly two weeks ago, Danielle and her husband were contacted by one of her husband’s employees, who called from Seattle and stated, “Unplug your Alexa devices right now. You’re being hacked.”
Danielle said, “We unplugged all of them and he proceeded to tell us that he had received audio files of recordings from inside our house. At first, my husband was, like, ‘No, you didn’t!’ And the (recipient of the message) said, ‘You sat there talking about hardwood floors.’ And we said, ‘Oh gosh, you really did hear us.'”
Danielle added, “I felt invaded. A total privacy invasion. Immediately, I said, ‘I’m never plugging that device in again because I can’t trust it.'”
Danielle said she unplugged everything, then called Amazon numerous times to investigate. She said, “They said, ‘Our engineers went through your logs, and they saw exactly what you told us; they saw exactly what you said happened, and we’re sorry.’ He apologized like 15 times in a matter of 30 minutes, and he said, ‘We really appreciate you bringing this to our attention; this is something we need to fix!'”
Danielle concluded, “He told us that the device just guessed what we were saying,” although she said Alexa did not tell her it was going to transmit the recording, which it is supposed to do.
Amazon responded to questions from KIRO-TV with this statement: “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.”
As FOX13 Memphis noted, “Amazon offered to ‘de-provision’ Danielle’s Alexa communications so she could keep using its ‘Smart Home’ features. But Danielle is hoping Amazon gives her a refund for her devices, which she said representatives have been unwilling to do. She says she’s curious to find out if anyone else has experienced the same issue.”