CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A new feature on the popular Amazon Echo is causing some major privacy concerns.
The new feature unveiled last month allows your Amazon Alexa to make calls and send voice messages. But that also means a simple slip could send your conversations out for anyone to hear.
A Cary, N.C. man says the update caused his device to record and send out a private conversation.
Robert Singore says he was chatting with his wife and son when his Echo made a concerning mistake.
“Alexa inadvertently picked up her name and had heard the word ‘recline’ and thought that I had asked to send a message to somebody,” he said.
It started recording his private conversation with his son and sent it to, randomly, his insurance agent.
Thankfully the recorded conversation was nothing serious.
“But it could have been much worse,” said Singore, who added they have three Echos in the house, including in his and his wife’s bedroom.
“It could've picked up something that we wouldn't want our insurance agent to hear.”
Meanwhile, message boards online are blowing up with more concerns about the new update.
A Raleigh woman wrote a viral article calling attention to the fact that there is no option to block or ignore callers, meaning anyone can gain access to your Echo at any time, even if they’re blocked on your phone.
Also, anyone can listen to or send messages from your device, since there’s no way to set up a passcode. Strangers, guests, children…all have access.
“My first thought was I'm going to turn the messaging feature off,” Singore said.
But he soon realized it’s not that simple. You actually have to call Amazon to turn the feature off.
A company spokesperson, Rachel Hass, says they plan to roll out fixes this week, including a blocking feature.
She also said Alexa will check with you before sending voice messages.
“First a customer must set up calling and messaging on Alexa via their Alexa app. This is an optional feature to set up,” she said.
“Second, when the customer imports their contacts and sets up the feature, they can only call/message other contacts who have also set up Alexa calling and messaging.
Third, when you go to send a voice message you need to say ‘Alexa send a message to Sarah,’ at which point Alexa will confirm and ask ‘what’s the message?’ and from there the customer can record their desired voice message.
Fourth, once the customer is done recording the voice message, Alexa will say ‘sending from Bill,’ which provides another audio indication to the customer that the message has been sent.
This means there are three indications to the customer that Alexa is streaming audio to the cloud during a voice message.”
You can also click ‘mute’ on your device anytime you don’t want to risk Alexa listening in.
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