Amazon error allowed Alexa user to eavesdrop on another home

Amazon Echo

An Amazon user in Germany was accidentally sent 1,700 audio recordings of someone he didn't know after he requested his own data file, exercising his rights under the EU's GDPR.

Amazon sent 1,700 voice recordings captured by their Alexa in-home device to a random person.

Amazon told the magazine that the leak "was an unfortunate mishap that was the result of human error". But the violation of privacy had already transpired: After Amazon had sent the user the link, he downloaded the audio recordings of the stranger to his computer. "We have resolved the issue with the two customers involved and have taken steps to further improve our processes", an Amazon spokeswoman said.

The person who received the stranger's recordings claimed he initially got no reply from Amazon when the user informed the company that he was given the wrong files.

Amazon also confirmed that it had apologised to the two customers and had been in touch with regulatory authorities including the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation administrators. The issue was first detailed by German publication c't.

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It's not uncommon for people to struggle with Amazon Alexa - but possibly not quite like one customer in Germany. However, there were also hundreds of Wav files and a PDF cataloging transcripts of Alexa's interpretations of voice commands. Staff at the magazine proceeded to use the data to piece together the identity of the person recorded by Alexa, using recordings taken from an Echo speaker, a Fire TV box, and the Alexa phone app. In May, a couple in OR found that their Amazon Echo sent a conversation to the husband's employee.

The first man notified Amazon of the improperly shared recordings, according to the report. An Amazon representative reportedly told them that one of their staff members had made a one-time error.

The customer contacted Amazon about the incident but nothing came out of it; he made a decision to contact CT and provided CT with a sample of the files.

In that case, Amazon said the assistant was responding to background conversations that that the device interpreted as voice commands. This is not only a technical error, but a clear breach of trust.

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