WIRED: Amazon Alexa Eavesdropping No Worse Than A Butt-Dial

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WIRED magazine says fret not about Alexa eavesdropping; it is no worse than a butt-dial.*  As posted earlier on the Norwich Observer, a family discovered that a private conversation had been recorded by an Amazon Echo and sent to a random person in their contact list.  

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In Don’t Freak Out About That Amazon Alexa Eavesdropping Situation by Lily Hay Newman, the article provides the perfect storm explanation by Amazon for the incident. 

[A]n Amazon spokesperson did provide an explanation: “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.'"
The article then says: 

That's a lot of misinterpretation, huh? But it's not completely implausible.... It's pretty bonkers that an Echo would have so wildly misinterpreted what was going on in a conversation, and Amazon says it is "evaluating options to make this case even less likely," but the glitch isn't necessarily a reason to panic. It’s like the Echo equivalent of a butt-dial.

I wonder what happens if you say "Hey Google" or "Hey Siri".
Wikipedia: Pocket dialing (also known as pocket calling or butt dialing) refers to the accidental placement of a phone call while a person's mobile phone or cordless phone is in the owner's pocket or handbag. The recipient of the call typically hears random background noise when answering the phone. If the caller remains unaware, the recipient will sometimes overhear whatever is happening in the caller's vicinity. A pocket-dialed call can continue for many minutes, or until the recipient's voice mail system ends the call. 
POSTED: 05.28.2018 


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