The customer did not own or use Alexa devices and concluded quickly, after playing some audio files, that the recordings were not his. From the downloaded recordings, a magazine was able to identify and contact a pair of individuals.
Amazon however contacted the Alexa user, after the magazine flagged the issue, and clarified that it was an "unfortunate mishap" and was a "one-time error", adding it occurred because of a "human error".
"We resolved the issue with the 2 customers involved and took measures to further optimize our processes. As a precautionary measure we contacted the relevant authorities", a spokesperson for Amazon was quoted as saying by the same media.
C't magazine listened to numerous files and was able "to piece together a detailed picture of the customer concerned and his personal habits". Meanwhile, Amazon said it's just an isolated incident that was fixed.
End users of digital assistants should be aware that anything said in the vicinity of their devices can and will get uploaded to remote servers when they are active.
- Internet of Shit (@internetofshit) December 20, 2018New: #Amazon sent around 1700 audio files and transcripts from a single user's Alexa recordings.
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When a person using Amazon.com's voice assistant in Germany requested to listen to his archive of recordings, he got much more than he was expecting.
He reported the anomaly to Amazon, but the company did not immediately reply, except to delete the files.
Amazon says it needs to store these recordings to improve its voice-recognition systems, but people who frequently speak to their smart speaker should think twice before telling Alexa any secrets. The recordings also contained copies of Spotify commans, weather queries and first and last names. The reason given is one of "human error".
Alexa has been up to no good again.
Reports from other research firms earlier this year suggested Google was shipping more of its Home units than Amazon was shipping Echo units, and that Amazon's market share already had dipped below 50%. Back then Amazon called it "an extremely rare occurrence" and blamed it on a one-of a kind string of coincidences where the device interpreted the user's conversation as a series of directions to blurt out what they were saying to a random.