Amazon 'mistakenly' sends someone's private Alexa recordings to stranger

Amazon Error Allowed An Alexa User to Eavesdrop On Another Home

According to Reuters, citing a report by German trade publication c't, the user had requested to listen back to Alexa-made recordings of his own activities, but instead, he gained access to 1 700 audio files from an unknown person when he received a link from Amazon.

After the man contacted Amazon to let them know of the mistake, Amazon took away his access to the files, but not before he had downloaded them to his computer.

Amazon accidentally sent recordings made by its Alexa voice-activated assistant to the wrong user raising fresh privacy concerns about the use of digital devices.

From the files, coupled with Facebook and Twitter information, the magazine said it was able to identify and contact the Alexa user, whose name also was not disclosed. "We have resolved the issue with the two customers involved and have taken steps to further improve our processes", an Amazon spokesperson told The Verge in a statement.

The magazine also reported the incident to Amazon - again - interested to see if the company would notify authorities within 72 hours as required by Germany's GDPR law.

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The Alexa user was contacted by Amazon about the breach only after the conversation between Amazon and c't took place, three days after he was first interviewed by the magazine. Those recordings reportedly contained conversations between a male and a "female companion".

It appears that the fears of privacy and data protection advocates in regards to voice powered devices have come true; at least in a single case where Amazon leaked a customer's voice data to another customer. The audio recordings provided a great deal of information about the then-unknown Amazon customer including where and how Alexa was used, information about jobs, people, alarms, likes, home application controls, and transport inquiries. Amazon insists its Echo devices are not always listening and only start recording upon hearing the word "Alexa". They may choose to put more attention on promoting their voice commerce apps to customers to drive usage.

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%.

Exactly what the human error was remains unclear.

"This was an unfortunate case of human error and an isolated incident", an Amazon representative told Business Insider.

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