Rachel Withers at Slate.com reports on how…
Alexa recorded a couple’s private conversation and sent it to a contact
The headline essentially gives the whole story away, but I’ll offer the following from the article itself:
A former smart-home enthusiast, named only as Danielle … and her husband recently received a call from her husband’s employee in Seattle, telling them to unplug their Echo immediately. The employee then went on to tell the couple that he had received recordings of their (mercifully) mundane chitchat—a conversation about hardwood floors, which Danielle and her husband had been having.
The big question for those who own one of these devices is: How exactly did this happen!?
When I read the article yesterday, there was no clear answer. Apparently, one has now been offered by parent company Amazon:
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 customers contact list. Alexa then asked out loud, “[contact name], right?” Alexa then interpreted background conversation as “right”. As unlikely as this string of events is, we are evaluating options to make this case even less likely.
Sounds like a lot of things had to go “right” for this screwy situation to happen.
Then again, the Echo is extremely popular -and has been since its release!- and this is the first time such a strange occurrence has happened.
Still, be careful what you say around your Echo!
Over on Slate.com, author Helaine Olen offers the following fascinating article:
How Amazon’s Problem With Cheap Knock-Offs Got So Bad
I’ll say upfront: I really like Amazon.com. I think the site offers a great way to buy (and in my case also sell) products.
HOWEVER, as the article notes, there is a big problem here regarding “knock-off” or counterfeit products. We’re talking about things such as clothing, phone cases, and, I’ve heard, even music CDs/DVDs.
When one buys a product, one expects to get what they asked for and not, as it will turn out, a cheap copy. As pointed out in the article, these cheap counterfeits hurt the creators of the original legitimate product in two ways: 1) By being much cheaper in price than the legitimate products, they undercut sales of the real product, sometimes to a very high degree. 2) Because they are cheap knock-offs, they tend to break quicker and this, in turn, angers customers who think they have bought the legitimate product. Bad reviews lead to worse sales and, sometimes, the legit creators are wrongly accused of building bad product.
At the risk of giving the entire article away, it is pointed out that Amazon.com is looking into this matter more now than they did before. Hope so.
I truly don’t want to start looking around to make sure that product X that I’m looking to order is what I think it is.
They are intriguing, to say the least, and one wonders if indeed, as Will Oremus asks in the below article presented on Slate, these new gadgets from Amazon are indeed part of a plot…
Amazon’s Ingenious Plot to Take Over Your Living Room
I like what I see regarding these gadgets even as I can’t help but point to what I posted just yesterday regarding cheap Smartwatches that just happen to be sending wearers’ information out to China (you can read the article by clicking here).
In that post, I wrote about how much of our personal information winds up in other’s hands and how they, including Amazon, may use these bits and pieces of information to develop and target you for other products.
If you buy any of these (admittedly cool looking) new Amazon gadgets, how much do you want to bet your personal information, whether you buy certain things through these gadgets or listen to certain music on them, winds up transmitted to Amazon?
And how much do you want to bet Amazon then sharpens their view on you as a consumer and, when you do head to their webpage, they offer you an astonishing amount of things you just may want to buy based on your usage of one of these gadgets?
It’s hard to remember but Amazon started as an internet seller of used books.
How the mighty have grown!