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Amazon Alexa spies on a couple, sends private conversation to random person

Smart speakers have an inbuilt microphone that is always active to listen to the trigger word; for Google Home, its 'Ok Google' or 'Hey Google' and for Amazon it's 'Alexa'(can be changed to another word in the settings).

twitter-logo BusinessToday.In        Last Updated: May 25, 2018  | 16:54 IST
Amazon Alexa spies on a couple, sends private conversation to random person

Smart speakers are taking off as a segment. In fact, according to a report by Canalys, smart speakers are the fastest growing segment in the tech sector. Sale of smart speakers has increased by 210 per cent but can you trust these speakers?
 
Smart speakers have an inbuilt microphone that is always active to listen to the trigger word; for Google Home, its 'Ok Google' or 'Hey Google' and for Amazon it's 'Alexa'(can be changed to another word in the settings).
 
Despite the knowledge of this, most users don't mind keeping the devices plugged-in at all times. However, this notion might change after this incident from Seattle, USA. A couple's conversation was recorded by Amazon Alexa, without their knowledge. The worst part is that it sent the audio clip to a random person on their contact list.
 
According to KIRO 7, a news Station that covers that particular area, the person who happened to receive the conversation was the husband's employee and was one of the contacts in the phone that was synced with the smart speaker.
 
As strange as it sounds, it turns out this was more of a comedy of errors rather than a master mind AI listening to your chats. Amazon told the Washington Post that the smart speaker woke up when it heard something similar to 'Alexa'. Following that, the speaker somehow assumed that the voice in the background was a message. Apparently, it even asked out loud "To Whom" and then made another mistake of extracting a word which sounded like one of the contacts. It then sent it to that contact.
 
Naturally, the couple felt invaded by the entire episode. The only thing stranger than an AI making a mistake is an AI making a series of mistakes one after the other. Though the product segment is expected to skyrocket in the near future, the safest option to deal with situations like these will be to just unplug the device when not in use.
 

 

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