An Amazon Echo device recorded a private conversation between a Portland, Oregon couple recently, and sent the conversation to one of the couple’s contacts, according to Washington state news radio station KIRO7.
That’s actually a feature in Amazon’s smart artificial intelligent assistant, Alexa, which lives inside Amazon Echo devices and several other smart speaker devices. You can call and send messages to your contacts who also have devices powered by Amazon’s Alexa.
The problem in this case is that the Portland couple never meant to send their conversation to their contact. Their Echo device just did it on its own. The error was accredited to so-called false positives – where a user says words that sound similar to commands designed for Alexa, prompting Alexa to wake up and take unintended actions.
This is the first report of a private conversation being erroneously sent to a contact via an Amazon Echo device, but although rare, it’s clearly something that no one wants to happen to them.
The good news is you can turn off the Calling and Messaging feature on your Amazon Echo devices. The not so good news: the process is incredibly convoluted.
Here’s how you can turn off the Calling and Messaging feature:
In a perfect world, you could simply turn off Alexa’s Calling and Messaging feature with the flick of a switch. But it turns out that you need to enable something called “Free Time” to turn it off, which is an incredibly convoluted process.
From the Alexa app’s home screen, tap the three lines on the top left of the app.
Then tap Alexa Devices.
Then tap your Alexa device.
Scroll down to Free Time.
And go through the tedious process of setting up Alexa for your kids, even if you don’t have any.
You can turn off Calling and Messaging in the final step of the Free Time setup.
If you actually like using Alexa’s Calling and Messaging feature, you can block individual contacts.
In Amazon’s Alexa app, tap the Calling and Messaging button towards the bottom left of the app.
Then, tap the Contacts button towards the top right.
Then tap the three dots on the top right.
Tap “Block Contacts.”
Now you can block individual contacts to prevent accidentally sending them private conversations.
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