Amazon Sent Man's Alexa Recordings to Total Stranger

Prompts on how to use Amazon’s Alexa personal assistant are seen in an Amazon ‘experience centre’ in Vallejo California

When the customer that sent the information request to Amazon received his data via Zip file a few weeks later, he could not identify the person in the recordings. From the recordings, the magazine was able to figure out which devices the Alexa user owned, and that the Alexa user had a female partner who sometimes used voice commands too.

Upon contacting Amazon about this, c't were told that the incident was an "unfortunate mishap", and that everything between it and the two men had been settled. "As a precautionary measure we contacted the relevant authorities", the Amazon spokesman added.

C't magazine listened to numerous files and was able "to piece together a detailed picture of the customer concerned and his personal habits". Back in May, an Amazon Echo mistakenly recorded a Portland family's conversations and then sent them to a person in their contacts list without their knowledge. They worked out which devices he owns, which music he likes, and who his girlfriend is, and even listened to him in the shower.

Amazon's share of the smart speaker market is expected to drop to 63% next year from 67% in 2018 as the e-commerce giant faces more competition from Google and a greater threat from other companies, researcher eMarketer forecasts.

Imagine you have Amazon Alexa-enabled speakers all over your house.

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. And in a recent incident, the Alexa recordings of a Germany-based man ended up in the mailbox of a total stranger. But according to the report there were also hundreds of Wav files and a PDF cataloging transcripts of Alexa's interpretations of voice commands.

Notably, Amazon didn't reply and the download link sent to him by Amazon now stands dead. The hack comes as the company works night-and-day on operations making artificial intelligence better at handling complex human interactions.

Amazon did not answer Gizmodo's questions about how a human error led to this privacy infringement, or whether the company had initially contacted the victim to inform them their sensitive information was shared with a stranger.

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