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An Amazon Echo sent someone’s private conversation to one of their contacts [Update]

Time to bust out the tinfoil hats.

Updated 5/25/2018 — Amazon has since reached out to Android Central with a statement about why this situation might have happened. According to the company, "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."

Amazon's Echo gadgets have exploded in popularity over the past couple years, but some folks have been reluctant about the idea of having an always-listening speaker in their home. Thanks to a report out of Seattle, a lot more people might switch to that mindset.

According to KIRO 7 News, an Echo Dot recorded the private conversation of a husband and wife in Portland, Oregon and sent it to the husband's colleague all the way in Seattle. The colleague then called Danielle (the woman involved) and told her to immediately unplug all of her Echo speakers.

Per KIRO 7

"We unplugged all of them and he proceeded to tell us that he had received audio files of recordings from inside our house," she said. "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 proceeded to call Amazon about why this had happened, and according to a representative she spoke with, "He told us that the device just guessed what we were saying." However, Danielle says that her Echo never gave off any indication that it was recording/sending the message.

KIRO 7 later reached out to Amazon for comment, and this is what the company had to say:

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.

Even if this is a "rare occurrence," it begs the question of how in the world this was allowed to happen in the first place. Not only that, but has this happened to any other Echo users? What about Google's Home speakers?

If you use an Amazon Echo or Google Home, will you continue to do so in spite of this story? Let us know in the comments below.

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