Amazon Alexa has privacy breach in Germany following “human error”

Amazon is facing a fresh round of privacy concerns after an error shared a user’s voice recordings with a stranger. A German user of the Amazon Alexa voice assistant asked to hear an archive of his recordings, but the link he was sent also included 1,700 audio files from a different person.

“This was an unfortunate case of human error and an isolated incident,” Amazon said in its statement. “We have resolved the issue with the two customers involved and have taken steps to further improve our processes. We were also in touch on a precautionary basis with the relevant regulatory authorities.”

Although it dubbed the situation “isolated,” a similar case did happen stateside earlier this year. An Echo device had recorded private conversations from a Portland, OR, family and sent it to a person in their contacts list. When that transpired, Amazon’s reps had said the company was “evaluating options to make this case even less likely.”

When the microphone of a smart speaker is on, the device is always passively listening to its environment and prepared to respond to a spoken command. Users can listen to and delete past recordings, although the companies powering the voice assistants keep a copy every conversation.

Privacy and trust concerns have emerged as top concerns for the people who have not yet adopted voice-based technologies into their homes.

Anna Washenko


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