Tech

Amazon's Alexa sent 1,700 recordings to the wrong person

Amazon's Alexa sent 1,700 recordings to the wrong person

The man gave his recordings to C't magazine, which was able to contact the person who had their information leaked. Amazon deleted the files from the link the company had accidentally shared with him. The magazine said the audio files, in German, revealed a lot of information about the person, including where he lived, first and last names, who his partner is, and his taste in music.

Along with receiving his own audio history captured by a home microphone the user also gained access to 1,700 audio files from a person he did not know. The files were deleted from the link by Amazon but the user had already downloaded them.

Amazon says it needs to store these recordings to improve its voice-recognition systems, but people who frequently speak to their smart speaker should think twice before telling Alexa any secrets.

What happened: The man asked for a copy of all the data Amazon holds on him.

The magazine used the audio to determine the identity of the man Alexa recorded and contacted him.

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The man said that the files he was sent included recordings of a man and a woman talking to each other.

When the customer that sent the information request to Amazon received his data via Zip file a few weeks later, he could not identify the person in the recordings. After weeks of no response from Amazon, the customer notified German trade publication c't, anxious the company would just cover up the incident otherwise.

Though the original customer contacted Amazon when he realized he had received some else's personal data, the data was only removed from the repository Amazon placed it on.

Amazon did not immediately respond to NPR's request for comment. The reason given is one of "human error".

Amazon on Thursday confirmed what it called "an unfortunate case that resulted from a human error", saying it was an "isolated incident". A spokesperson from Amazon said, "We resolved the issue with the two customers involved and took measures to further optimize our processes. We were also in touch on a precautionary basis with the relevant regulatory authorities", Amazon added.