May 25 (UPI) -- A family in Oregon said they asked Amazon for an investigation after Alexa, their voice-controlled digital assistant, recorded a private conversation and sent it to a man 150 miles away.
The Portland, Ore., family said the digital device sent an audio recording of their discussion to a man in Seattle, 150 miles away.
The couple said they'd previously joked about Alexa eavesdropping on their conversations, since they have Amazon devices in every room of their home. A few weeks ago they received a phone call from the man in Seattle who said, "Unplug your Alexa devices right now. You're being hacked.'"
The man who received the recording was an employee of the husband.
"He proceeded to tell us that he had received audio files of recordings from inside our house," the wife said. "[The man] said 'You sat there talking about hardwood floors.' And we said, 'oh gosh, you really did hear us.'"
An Amazon engineer confirmed the incident and apologized, saying it's something that needs to be fixed. The engineer did not indicate how it happened or if it's a widespread issue.
"Amazon takes privacy very seriously. We investigated what happened and determined this was an extremely rare occurrence," Amazon said in a statement to KIRO-TV. "We are taking steps to avoid this from happening in the future."
Recode asked Amazon for more details and was told the Echo device awoke to a word in background conversation that sounded like "Alexa," which is how it's activated. The subsequent conversation was then heard by the device as a request to "send message."
Amazon said at that point Alexa asked, "To whom?" Additional background conversation was then interpreted as the name of the employee in Seattle.
"As unlikely as this string of events is, we are evaluating options to make this case even less likely," Amazon added.