News anchors set off Amazon Echo while reporting child's accidental order

By Daniel Uria  |  Jan. 11, 2017 at 3:49 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Amazon Echo owners have reported that news anchors and other voices can accidentally activate the smart speaker.

Viewers of Texas-based news network KXAN reported anchor Sally Hernandez activated their Amazon Echos while reporting on a story about a 6-year-old North Carolina who used the device's voice activation feature to order a $150 dollhouse and four pounds of danish butter cookies.

"Alexa can you please order me a dollhouse and some cookies," Hernandez repeated.

Viewers said their Echos proceeded to order the items upon hearing the phrase, just as the North Carolina family's had in the original story.

Echo owners watching CW6 in San Diego reported similar results after anchors Jim Patton and Lynda Martin repeated the phrase "Alexa ordered me a dollhouse," while reporting on the story.

"These devices don't recognize your specific voice and so then we have the situations where you have a guest staying or you have a child who is talking and accidentally order something because the device isn't aware that it's a child versus a parent," Senior security researcher for ESET North America Stephen Cobb told CW6.

He added that voice-activated technology will become sophisticated enough to identify different voices "down the road," but in the meantime users should check their settings to prevent accidental orders.

"All of these devices which record the internet of things will have some sort of website control, some sort of setting, sometimes the setting is on the device that is communicating. So you need to go into these settings and look at what they are, and what you can change," he said

Amazon clarified that voice purchasing can be turned off in the Alexa app and all accidental orders can be returned for free.

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