Amazon (AMZN) worked to contain damage Friday after it was confirmed one of the company’s Echo smart-speaker devices recorded a couple’s private conversation in their home and sent it to someone in their contact list without their knowledge.


Seattle TV station KIRO reported that a married couple in Portland contacted Amazon to complain. The couple said Amazon’s Alexa — the voice-controlled smart speaker — recorded a private conversation they had in their home. Alexa then sent the recorded audio to the phone of a person in Seattle who was in the family’s contact list.

The company sent an e-mailed statement to The Washington Post late Thursday, and said the Echo woke up when it heard a word that sounded like “Alexa.”

“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 customer’s contact list,” the report said.

“As unlikely as this string of events is, we are evaluating options to make this case even less likely,” the company said.

Amazon shares were up 0.4% to close at 1,610.15 on the stock market today.

The e-commerce leader told a KIRO news reporter: “Amazon takes privacy very seriously. We investigated what happened and determined this was an extremely rare occurrence. We are taking steps to avoid this from happening in the future.”

Smart Home

At the end of 2017 Amazon had 69% of the U.S. market for smart-speaker devices, with 31 million Echo devices sold overall. That’s according to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. Google-owner Alphabet (GOOGL) had 31% with 14 million units sold.

Artificial intelligence supports smart speaker devices. They are emerging as the central hub of the smart home. The smart home ecosystem represents a $20 billion market opportunity over the next three years with Alexa front and center.


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