Friday, 22 March, 2019

Germany: Amazon sends Alexa recordings to wrong user

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos made a brief appearance in a Super Bowl ad for his company's Alexa digital assistant Amazon Alexa ‘Error’ Granted Man Access to Another User’s Voice Recordings AFP20 Dec 2018
Troy Mann | 21 December, 2018, 18:27

In that case, Amazon said the assistant was responding to background conversations that that the device interpreted as voice commands. After c't reached out to Amazon, it was only a matter of days before the company engaged with all parties involved. He also didn't recognise the voices in the files.

Voyeur's paradise: The magazine listened to the files and was able to put together a detailed picture of the other user and his personal habits. They noticed that a woman was around at times. There have been proven cases of it recording without users knowing, but Amazon has generally managed to explain them away as anomalies.

We were able to navigate around a complete stranger's private life without his knowledge, and the immoral, nearly voyeuristic nature of what we were doing got our hair standing on end. The magazine said the audio files, in German, revealed a lot of information about the person, including where he lived, first and last names, who his partner is, and his taste in music. C't magazine contacted them through Twitter, and they were completely shocked to find out that their private information was sent to a random person.

Though the original customer contacted Amazon when he realized he had received some else's personal data, the data was only removed from the repository Amazon placed it on.

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Exactly what the human error was remains unclear. After weeks of no response from Amazon, the customer notified German trade publication c't, anxious the company would just cover up the incident otherwise.

When asked for comment on the matter, Amazon sent Gizmodo the same statement it had shared with Reuters.

Amazon on Thursday confirmed what it described as "an unfortunate case that resulted from a human error", adding that it was an "isolated incident". "We have resolved the issue with the two customers involved and have taken steps to further improve our processes", an Amazon representative told Business Insider. "As a precautionary measure we contacted the relevant authorities", the Amazon spokesman said.

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