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Amazon Echo Sent a Private Conversation to a Random Contact

     
12:11 pm on May 25, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Amazon has confirmed that one of its Echo speakers sent a private conversation to a contact.

“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’.”

Recognising the improbability of this series of mishaps occuring, they added: “As unlikely as this string of events is, we are evaluating options to make this case even less likely.”

[theguardian.com...]

Although i get the concept of it sending a message because it heard acknowledgements in the background as being intructions, I don't get why it saved the conversation.
12:42 pm on May 25, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I don't get why it saved the conversation.

This wouldn't surprise me that it's recording everything, and analyzing what is said, to profile users. I also bet that voice recognition is achieved at Amazon's servers and not locally, like for Smart TV. Then, who knows what Amazon is doing of all these discussions taped...
1:38 pm on May 25, 2018 (gmt 0)

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This wouldn't surprise me that it's recording everything,
It may not be recording everything, but it does have to listen to everything. I do not trust these devices and never will.
2:54 pm on May 25, 2018 (gmt 0)

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“As unlikely as this string of events is,..."

As unlikely? No string of events seems like it could be very likely, after all it occurred and was discovered. How many times has this occurred and gone either undiscovered or unreported.

The name Alexa is common in the US not to mention that there a very many popular variations, such as Alessia, Alexandra and so on. With Alexa used as a trigger it seems like it must be a common occurrence for the device to begins listening when one of the name or its variations is used.

"Send message" seems likely a likely phrase to say if one is having conversation about communicating with someone.

The background conversation was interpreted as a name in the customer’s contact list
Well the likelyhood of mentioning any name that occurs in your list of contacts seems very likely. In fact, I would go so far as saying it is pretty close to 100%, specially if you have a big list of contacts.

So probabilistically say event 1 occurs at 10% probability, event 2 at 10% and event 3 at 75% probability = 0.0075%. That is 7.5 in 1000. Even if the numbers are over stated by 100 or 1000 times given the large numbers of interactions with the device it seems certain that such a situation would occur.

But wait, look at this from a Bayesian perspective. If the first event has occurred, Alexa has been triggered your of the other tow events occurring is 7.5% probability or 7/100. Your having a conversation about emailing someone. The probability likely goes up above 60%.
2:40 am on May 26, 2018 (gmt 0)

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blah blah blah "we take customer's privacy very seriously". Sure, right, of course you want us to think that. This is why I don't use these "smart home" devices.
7:49 am on May 26, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I think of the critters involved. Fortunately they were talking about flooring. :)

Would not have a device like this. Then again I am probably a worst nightmare Technologically Warned Luddite.

(aside: who likes a snitch? a rat? an informer?) Can't do the Cagney voice on line, just think WHITE HEAT and go from there.
8:57 am on May 26, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Pure sensationalism. The media loves stuff like this. Meanwhile in the real world, users need to take responsibility for the operation of the machines they use.
11:20 am on May 26, 2018 (gmt 0)

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users need to take responsibility
Yeah, that will happen.
5:36 pm on May 26, 2018 (gmt 0)

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How are users supposed to take responsibility without defeating the purpose of this? The while point of these devices is that they activate on a voice trigger and then do what you want. If they activate unexpectedly, you do not even know. If you require more action to activate them, then they are pointless.
6:25 pm on May 26, 2018 (gmt 0)

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How are users supposed to take responsibility without defeating the purpose of this...
Reading the directions and setting the device up properly is a good start... oh, and common sense helps too.

I don't believe these people. I think they're untruthful in reporting the facts, then the media ran with it doing their usual thing.

I tried Amazon's Echo for about a month. I then switched to Google's Home and have been using it daily for over a year. Neither one does any of the bizarre mishaps I read about.
11:38 pm on May 28, 2018 (gmt 0)

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If you're worried about what exactly Amazon's Echo-connected speaker has been recording in your home, there's an easy way to find out.
[usatoday.com...]
5:20 am on May 29, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I do not trust these devices and never will.
Agree!

If I ever get that old and feeble that I need constant upkeep I want someone with a cute smile and bit of a curve waiting on me <EG>
5:38 am on May 29, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Don't condem something you know nothing about. You're missing the potential.

I run about a dozen devices through Home using smart power outlets in my recording studio. I can connect to sound libraries, account spreadsheets, switch between displays, etc. I often have my hands full so the voice commands are great.

I tried Alexa, but Home is more robust for my purposes, especially with Chromestick.
 

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