Is Alexa recording our conversations like Big Brother?

May 25, 2018, 7:00 PM


Alexa, the Amazon Echo (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

If you’re like many households around the tech-heavy Puget Sound, one of the names heard most often in your home may be “Alexa,” that of Amazon’s Echo personal assistant device.


But if you have an Echo in your home, be warned — a recent incident in Oregon has people wondering if the device is hearing more than it is supposed to. KIRO 7’s Gary Horcher broke the story about how an Alexa device recorded a Portland couple’s conversation and sent it to one of the people in their contacts list.

RELATED: Amazon Echo sent device to family’s contact

“The most disturbing part of this, I guess, for somebody on the outside of this looking in, is that …  you can send somebody a message, but it’s going to try and confirm that it’s going to send to contact … and they had no idea that this message was sent,” Horcher said to KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson.

Amazon responded to KIRO 7 that the only way this could have happened was if the Echo misinterpreted the background conversation as “Alexa,” “send message,” the contact’s name, and then a confirmation of the request.

As outrageous as this miscommunication may seem, Horcher finds even one occurrence frightening, considering the millions of people who have an Alexa in their homes.

“If these things are constantly listening to everything we say, that could be tapped into by some third party,” he said.

Horcher pointed out that both the man and woman were software engineers and very well-versed in how personal assistants work.

According to Horcher, Amazon has not been the most forthcoming in helping the couple out. Horcher said that there has been “radio silence from” the tech giant, which “cut off communications” and didn’t even send the couple an apologetic form email until he broke the story.

Horcher hopes to hear more in the coming days, especially since news outlets around the world have picked up on the story.

“You ought to have a reasonable expectation to be able to talk to your family in the privacy of your own home and not have that sent to an innocuous third party,” Horcher said.

Dori Monson Show

Dori Monson

Dori Monson stage show...

MyNorthwest Staff

Watch: Dori Monson’s ‘What are the Odds?’ stage show

In 2019, Dori Monson hosted a stage show - 'What are the Odds?' - which introduced you to the people who helped shape his improbable career.

1 year ago

Dori Monson welcomes the Moose back to KIRO. Follow @

MyNorthwest Staff

A collection of the all-time best Dori Monson stories

With the passing of Dori Monson, a collection of some of his top stories to remember all the hard work Dori brought to Seattle.

1 year ago

Alaska, fishing...

KIRO Newsradio staff

Listen: Friends, colleagues offer tribute to KIRO Newsradio’s Dori Monson

All day Monday, KIRO Newsradio's John Curley talked to friends, news makers, and more in tribute to Dori Monson.

1 year ago

Dori Monson Shorecrest...

Dori Monson Show

How to support charities reflecting Dori Monson’s values, passions

In tribute to Dori Monson, learn more about how you can support these three charities which best reflect his values, passions, and advocacy.

1 year ago

From left, Producer Nicole Thompson and KIRO host Dori Monson. (Courtesy of the Monson family)...

MyNorthwest Staff

Broadcasters, politicians, coworkers and friends remember Dori Monson

Dori Monson, a longtime KIRO Newsradio host, passed away Saturday. He is remembered by public figures, broadcasters, coworkers, and listeners.

1 year ago

Dori Monson...

MyNorthwest Staff

Longtime KIRO Newsradio host Dori Monson dies at age 61

We are deeply saddened to announce Dori Monson's sudden passing on Saturday, December 31, 2022, at a Seattle hospital.

1 year ago

Is Alexa recording our conversations like Big Brother?