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Amazon’s Alexa Accidentally Taped And Shared Family Conversation With Contact

Amazon on Thursday described an "unlikely ... string of events" that made Alexa send an audio recording of the family to one of their contacts randomly.

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Assuring customers of Alexa's security is crucial to Amazon, which has ambitions for Alexa to be ubiquitous

A Portland, Oregon, family has learned what happens when Amazon.com Inc’s popular voice assistant Alexa is lost in translation.

Amazon on Thursday described an “unlikely … string of events” that made Alexa send an audio recording of the family to one of their contacts randomly. The episode underscored how Alexa can misinterpret conversation as a wake-up call and command.

A local news outlet, KIRO 7, reported that a woman with Amazon devices across her home received a call two weeks ago from her husband’s employee, who said Alexa had recorded the family’s conversation about hardwood floors and sent it to him.

“I felt invaded,” the woman, only identified as Danielle, said in the report. “A total privacy invasion. Immediately I said, ‘I’m never plugging that device in again, because I can’t trust it.'”

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Alexa, which comes with Echo speakers and other gadgets, starts recording after it hears its name or another “wake word” selected by users. Pixabay

Alexa, which comes with Echo speakers and other gadgets, starts recording after it hears its name or another “wake word” selected by users. This means that an utterance quite like Alexa, even from a TV commercial, can activate a device.

That’s what happened in the incident, Amazon said. “Subsequent conversation was heard as a ‘send message’ request,” the company said in a statement. “At which point,

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Alexa said out loud ‘To whom?’ At which point, the background conversation was interpreted as a name in the customer’s contact list.”

Amazon added, “We are evaluating options to make this case even less likely.”

Assuring customers of Alexa’s security is crucial to Amazon, which has ambitions for Alexa to be ubiquitous — whether dimming the lights for customers or placing orders for them with the world’s largest online retailer.

University researchers from Berkeley and Georgetown found in a 2016 paper that sounds unintelligible to humans can set off voice assistants in general, which raised concerns of exploitation by attackers. Amazon did not immediately comment on the matter, but it previously told The New York Times that it has taken steps to keep its devices secure.

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Alexa said out loud ‘To whom?’ At which point, the background conversation was interpreted as a name in the customer’s contact list.” Pixabay

Millions of Amazon customers have shopped with Alexa. Customers bought tens of millions of Alexa devices last holiday season alone, the company has said. That makes the incident reported Thursday a rare one. But faulty hearing is not.

“Background noise from our television is making it think we said Alexa,” Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter said of his personal experience. “It happens all the time.” (VOA)

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Fake Review Factories Fooling Online Amazon Shoppers

On the other hand, Amazon claimed it invests “significant resources” to protect the integrity of reviews on its site, the report said

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Google , US, Alexa, Amazon, Drones, e-commerce
The logo of Amazon, online retailer is seen at the company logistics center in Lauwin-Planque, France. VOA

Amazon’s online shoppers are being fooled by fake review factories running on multiple Facebook groups.

The scam is supported by several large and small companies as well as by entrepreneurs who depend on Facebook to spread positive reviews about their products listed on Amazon to its 2.6 billion users globally.

Fake reviewers, backed by Amazon sellers, post details about the products on Facebook Groups to influence consumers, the Guardian reported on Saturday.

Since the reviewers have to really pay for the items, Amazon is fooled into believing that the buyer is genuine but after leaving a glowing review, the product manufacturing company refunds the purchase price and sometimes also pays an extra fee.

“Which?”, a brand name used by UK-based Consumers’ Association, said that “nearly all” of the Facebook groups it uncovered last autumn were still active, the report said.

Earlier this week “Which?” claimed that Amazon’s system was being undermined by a flood of fake five-star reviews for unfamiliar brands.

Amazon, online retailer, Drones
The Amazon warehouse in San Fernando de Henares is seen during a 3-day walkout to demand better wages and working conditions, on the outskirts of Madrid, Spain. VOA

“Researchers analysed listings of hundreds of popular tech products and found top-rated items were dominated by brands with names such as Itshiny, Vogek and Aitalk, many with thousands of unverified reviews,” the report added.

In October 2018, “Which?” said two large Facebook groups, plus some smaller groups, may between them have up to 87,000 members potentially engaged in writing fake reviews.

“We don’t allow people to facilitate or encourage the trade of fake user reviews. The groups brought to our attention have now been removed for violating our policies,” the report quoted Facebook as telling “Which?”

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“We urge people to continue to use our reporting tools to flag content they think breaks our rules.”

On the other hand, Amazon claimed it invests “significant resources” to protect the integrity of reviews on its site, the report said.

“We have clear participation guidelines for both reviewers and selling partners, and we suspend, ban and take legal action on those who violate our policies,” the report quoted Amazon as saying. (IANS)

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