Personal virtual assistants are meant to ease our lives, but it is doing the exact opposite. It is making everything awkward, and sometimes, complicated with some unexpected actions. Alexa, a virtual assistant of Amazon, has been getting users into trouble recently. The complaints of users grew over time and the tech giant needed to take this matter into its hands to provide solutions as soon as possible. After its creepy laugh controversy, its actions have spurred another controversy. It has been recording private conversations and sending them to random users from contact lists. While going through the history, the users noticed that there have been unexpected recordings, which they did not intend Alexa to record. This has led users to drop jaws and complain about this unexpected behavior of the virtual assistant built by Amazon. The complaints from users have raised concerns over the privacy and needs a fix sooner.
A woman from Portland, Oregon informed the California-headquartered tech giant about Alexa recording private conversations and sending it to a random contact. Her room was wired to let Alexa control the heat, light, and security system of the home. They came to know this when they received a phone call from the person who received that conversation and asked them to unplug Alexa device instantly with the concern of being hacked. The person was her husband’s employee from Seattle. So, the woman and her husband unplugged all the devices instantly. The woman, who declined to reveal her identity commented on the incident, saying, “I felt invaded. A total privacy invasion. Immediately I said, ‘I’m never plugging that device in again, because I can’t trust it.'”
After this report, Rachel Metz, the senior editor for mobile at MIT Technology Review, started wondering whether her Alexa was doing the same. She checked out her Alexa history to determine if it recorded conversations. When she came to know what it recorded, she was flabbergasted. “That’s when the hairs on the back of my neck started to stand up,” she wrote. “Beyond all the things I’ve clearly asked Alexa to do, in the past several months it has also tuned in, frequently several times a day, for no obvious reason.”
Ms. Rachel was terrified to know it recorded mundane chitchat. She clarified that she kept Alexa in her home to listen to Pandora easily and check weather sometimes. She never wanted it to record their mundane chitchat and store it on Amazon’s cloud storage. The assistant has been triggering itself during the conversations. Sometimes, it begins playing songs without asking it explicitly. It hears the conversations between people and switches itself on. This is another problem Amazon needs to address.
There was a controversy about Alexa laughing creepily at any point of time during March. It misunderstood some of the phrases and triggered ‘Alexa, laugh’ command. The pressure on Amazon has been building high and it needs to make necessary changes in Alexa’s voice recognition feature. Else, the problems would go on building for Amazon and its influence would be lessened.