Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

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ResearchMed
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Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by ResearchMed » Thu May 24, 2018 7:27 pm

Oh my....

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/05/24/amazon- ... eport.html

Apparently Amazon has acknowledged this and blames it on the device misinterpreting background conversation.

Yikes!

RM
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luap
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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by luap » Thu May 24, 2018 7:36 pm

I know they are wildly popular, but I for one will never purchase one of these devices. I just don't find myself having the problems these things are promoted to solve.

Boglegrappler
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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by Boglegrappler » Thu May 24, 2018 7:58 pm

This deserves a discussion among smart people, but in lieu of that, I'll start.

Is there some regular function in Alexa that normally records longer periods of audio from the microphone and then can do something with that? I have an Echo, and don't use it a lot, but I don't remember seeing any instructions that would suggest that such a feature exists. I am aware that there is a log of your oral "commands" to alexa that you can look at, but that's different than having extended periods of time recorded and stored as a file.

A different way of asking the question. If they say that, as the nightly news suggested, it was a misinterpretation of conversation as a series of commands, then what commands allow you to record, say the next 15 minutes of ambient audio, save it as a file and then manipulate it? I'm not aware of that feature on mine, but maybe I didn't read the manual carefully.

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TimeRunner
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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by TimeRunner » Thu May 24, 2018 8:03 pm

I was watching an episode of the 4th season of Bosch on [edit: Amazon Prime] when my Google mini triggered. I rewound, replayed, and it triggered again. I didn't hear anything that sounded like "OK, Google" or "Hey, Google" which is the documented trigger. There was just some combination of sounds that set "her" off to respond.

The device is pretty handy, but...you couldn't invent a better surveillance state device, one that people will pay money to install. Fortunately, all our conversation is pretty humdrum. :wink:
Last edited by TimeRunner on Fri May 25, 2018 10:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by jalbert » Thu May 24, 2018 8:06 pm

luap wrote:
Thu May 24, 2018 7:36 pm
I know they are wildly popular, but I for one will never purchase one of these devices. I just don't find myself having the problems these things are promoted to solve.
As far as the privacy breach, a smartphone has the same vulnerability to erroneous or malicious compromise.
Index fund investor since 1987.

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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by jebmke » Thu May 24, 2018 8:10 pm

jalbert wrote:
Thu May 24, 2018 8:06 pm
luap wrote:
Thu May 24, 2018 7:36 pm
I know they are wildly popular, but I for one will never purchase one of these devices. I just don't find myself having the problems these things are promoted to solve.
As far as the privacy breach, a smartphone has the same vulnerability to erroneous or malicious compromise.
That's why I never use them for financial transactions and rarely use GPS. In fact, half the time I leave home I forget to take the phone. It stays in my desk drawer when I'm home so it doesn't occur to me to take it.
When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.

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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by MindBogler » Thu May 24, 2018 8:21 pm

I don't feel sorry. Anyone who puts these devices in their home, unfortunately, deserves what they get. Would you invite a stranger into your private chambers? I think not, but we'll let an "innocuous" pieces of technology sit there with a microphone... Cell phones are just as bad, to the point that I'm considering going back to a land line. Why do we need to be connected to everyone 24/7? How did we ever manage before about 2005? :twisted:

ResearchMed
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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by ResearchMed » Thu May 24, 2018 8:26 pm

These Alexa-type devices are *supposed" to be listening all the time. Otherwise, how would they know when you summoned them to <do whatever>?

I'm not sure that cell phones, at least earlier generations, "listened".
In older phones, they couldn't even "hear" unless one was actually on a call (no voice dialing, or such), and I don't think the device itself was "listening".

Or was that naive, even "back then"?

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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by jabberwockOG » Thu May 24, 2018 8:37 pm

ResearchMed wrote:
Thu May 24, 2018 8:26 pm
These Alexa-type devices are *supposed" to be listening all the time. Otherwise, how would they know when you summoned them to <do whatever>?

I'm not sure that cell phones, at least earlier generations, "listened".
In older phones, they couldn't even "hear" unless one was actually on a call (no voice dialing, or such), and I don't think the device itself was "listening".

Or was that naive, even "back then"?

RM


Alexa types of devices will become extremely pervasive. And people will gradually forget what it was like before all conversations were recorded and stored by some internet connected device especially in your home or car.

On older more simple cell phones microphones were off when the cell phone was not making a call. Current "smart" phones are primarily a miniaturized multi-purpose computer that is also capable of making cell phone calls. The microphone (as well as camera, and other hardware components) can be turned on by the phone's OS with simple software commands (therefore capable of listening/seeing and recording) at any time if smart phone is physically powered on.
Last edited by jabberwockOG on Thu May 24, 2018 8:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Kenkat
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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by Kenkat » Thu May 24, 2018 8:41 pm

I don’t see myself inviting Skynet, er Alexa, into my house anytime soon.

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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by arcticpineapplecorp. » Thu May 24, 2018 8:43 pm

When they first came out Clark Howard was talking about it all the time until he got numerous complaints from his listeners. Apparently people were listening to his show and everytime he said "Alexa" it would wake up the device and his listeners had to tell him to stop saying "Alexa" and say "smart speakers" or something else instead when describing the device to his uninformed listeners.
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luap
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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by luap » Thu May 24, 2018 8:47 pm

jalbert wrote:
Thu May 24, 2018 8:06 pm
luap wrote:
Thu May 24, 2018 7:36 pm
I know they are wildly popular, but I for one will never purchase one of these devices. I just don't find myself having the problems these things are promoted to solve.
As far as the privacy breach, a smartphone has the same vulnerability to erroneous or malicious compromise.
Your point is very well-taken, and this is why I take conscious steps to do such things as disabling Siri on my Apple devices (e.g. disabling "Hey Siri" to ensure my iPhone is not always listening). My point was specifically about my lack of interest in introducing a dedicated device into the home that has a primary purpose of listening to ambient conversations. By no means do I wear a tin foil hat, and I am also not naive...I realize my online activity generates lots of data about me each day, but stories such as the one shared by the OP edify my position on not having myself and my family constantly 'mic-ed up'.

If anything, perhaps our back and forth here will at least inspire other forum readers to check their current iOS settings to see "who" may be listening at this moment! :happy

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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by MJW » Thu May 24, 2018 9:13 pm

It has a long way to go before living up to the standard set by "Computer" from Star Trek TNG.

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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by motorcyclesarecool » Thu May 24, 2018 9:16 pm

Inlaws got an echo for DW birthday. She returned it. I love her more each day. The best solution is not to play the Amazon Echo game.
Understand that choosing an HDHP is very much a "red pill" approach. Most would rather pay higher premiums for a $20 copay per visit. They will think you weird for choosing an HSA.

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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by rob65 » Thu May 24, 2018 9:25 pm

MJW wrote:
Thu May 24, 2018 9:13 pm
It has a long way to go before living up to the standard set by "Computer" from Star Trek TNG.
We are the Borg Alexa. Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own. Resistance is futile. Assimilation is inevitable. :happy

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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by 3dream3 » Thu May 24, 2018 9:57 pm

My kids got an echo dot as a gift. It was nice to play around with at the start and then saw how it keeps a log of just about everything spoken. So we kept the mic off and then it just sat there doing nothing but drawing electricity. Now it's sitting unplugged in the junk drawer. Reading this just reinforces our decision to not use it.

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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by TravelGeek » Fri May 25, 2018 12:17 am

3dream3 wrote:
Thu May 24, 2018 9:57 pm
My kids got an echo dot as a gift. It was nice to play around with at the start and then saw how it keeps a log of just about everything spoken.
Everything spoken in the presence of the device, or every Alexa command?

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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by artibug » Fri May 25, 2018 2:55 am

One of our kids’ friend’s dad works for amazon. Apparently his job is to listen to all the “error comments” Alexa cannot perform. The mom was giving detailed descriptions of those “error comments or conversations” and laughing about it. Ugh. No thanks. I don’t want some creepy IT guys listening on everything I say in my own house behind closed doors. Not to mention the fact that he shares those info outside the work.

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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by BuckyBadger » Fri May 25, 2018 7:53 am

I love my Alexa and this news doesn't concern me.

I agree that she's not for everyone. But I also like that Google automatically puts things form my emails into my calendar and reminds me of appointments and birthdays and whatnot.

We were early adopters with Alexa and our one regret is that maybe we would prefer Google Home, but we've got several Alexa devices set up so there's a lot of inertia to stay with her rather than change. Maybe someday we'll try the Google device.

(ETA We're not an Apply family, so Apple's version isn't for us.)
Last edited by BuckyBadger on Fri May 25, 2018 7:58 am, edited 1 time in total.

NextMil
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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by NextMil » Fri May 25, 2018 7:54 am

I dumped my echo for a home pod when apple said they view privacy as a human right. Maybe I am naive, but I love the home pod, amazing sound that way outperforms the 2nd gen echo, and it does everything I want it to do, and I don't have to scream at it for it to work.

I am sure there will be people that will say siri is terrible and echo or google home's assistant are way better, but I never once played jeopardy or any of the other additional tricks they can do that I have zero need for in my life. Unlimited music library, podcasts, news, weather, reminders, calendar info, home kit integration, a timer, and apple's commitment to privacy....

I also got tired of saying hey sir, i mean alexa, i mean siri.

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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by lthenderson » Fri May 25, 2018 8:06 am

Another fluff piece used to instill fear in those with no idea what steps had to occur for this to happen, not to mention that the couple absolutely ignored what their echo was asking them. Here were those steps:
“Echo woke up due to a word in background conversation sounding like “Alexa.” Then, the subsequent conversation was heard as a “send message” request. At which point, Alexa said out loud “To whom?” At which point, the background conversation was interpreted as a name in the customers contact list. Alexa then asked out loud, “[contact name], right?” Alexa then interpreted background conversation as “right”. As unlikely as this string of events is, we are evaluating options to make this case even less likely.”
https://www.theverge.com/2018/5/24/1739 ... xplanation

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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by DetroitRick » Fri May 25, 2018 8:56 am

As lthenderson said previously, this is a total fluff piece. Designed to elicit fear and shock among people that don't understand the operational basics of the device, and degree of control over that device that we have.

A few things these frothing articles omit - for this to happen: commands have to be ignored, this type of messaging only occurs between other Echo users that have activated Alexa calling & messaging (not the world at large), and there is no mystery to how this happened. The app maintains a log of all history that it hears. Which users can see at any time. And that's why Amazon could reconstruct EXACTLY what happened. Mistaken voice commands can be prevented via voice training, changing wake words, and other steps. Or just disable messaging if you don't find it useful or safe.

The one change that Amazon should make - verification before sending ALL messages. Because it currently only does that now when multiple contacts are similar sounding.

Lot of deep state fear over these devices. Bear in mind when plotting insurrection or criminal activities - you can disable the device by simply unplugging it. But I do still fear that the NSA might not approve of my streaming music choices.

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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by SuperGrafx » Fri May 25, 2018 8:57 am

luap wrote:
Thu May 24, 2018 7:36 pm
I know they are wildly popular, but I for one will never purchase one of these devices. I just don't find myself having the problems these things are promoted to solve.
100% in agreement here.
Seems like most of these smart devices are created to solve problems that really don't need solving in the first place.

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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by Katietsu » Fri May 25, 2018 9:48 am

SuperGrafx wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 8:57 am
luap wrote:
Thu May 24, 2018 7:36 pm
I know they are wildly popular, but I for one will never purchase one of these devices. I just don't find myself having the problems these things are promoted to solve.
100% in agreement here.
Seems like most of these smart devices are created to solve problems that really don't need solving in the first place.
I have outfitted my MIL’s house with an Echo setup. The main problem it solved was her children’s piece of mind. She is widowed and living alone. If she falls, she can ask Alexa to call 911. She is still healthy and active and therefore would never entertain a medical alert system. But living alone with no job expecting her to show up means that she could be marooned for a couple of days if she fell and couldn’t get up.

In the meantime, it has made other aspects of life easier. Setting reminders has helped a lot. Check the temperature before going out, turn the light on before getting out of bed during the night, listen to music and audiobooks easier, ...

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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by jebmke » Fri May 25, 2018 10:02 am

SuperGrafx wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 8:57 am
luap wrote:
Thu May 24, 2018 7:36 pm
I know they are wildly popular, but I for one will never purchase one of these devices. I just don't find myself having the problems these things are promoted to solve.
100% in agreement here.
Seems like most of these smart devices are created to solve problems that really don't need solving in the first place.
So, you're saying you don't need
The appliance has three built-in cameras, which can beam live images of the fridge’s contents to a phone.
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/25/tech ... tchen.html
When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.

cantos
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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by cantos » Fri May 25, 2018 10:13 am

I think it's an over-reaction and a disservice to yourself and your kids NOT to use a voice command device. Your phones are already listening to you with Hey Siri and OK Google. Alexa should be the least of your worries.
It is also just a matter of time (5-10 years?) when listening devices will be everywhere. I am happy to use it and for my kids to use it. It is simply another way to get a computer to do what you want - in other words, a skill.

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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by Rupert » Fri May 25, 2018 10:14 am

BuckyBadger wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 7:53 am
I love my Alexa and this news doesn't concern me.

I agree that she's not for everyone. But I also like that Google automatically puts things form my emails into my calendar and reminds me of appointments and birthdays and whatnot.

We were early adopters with Alexa and our one regret is that maybe we would prefer Google Home, but we've got several Alexa devices set up so there's a lot of inertia to stay with her rather than change. Maybe someday we'll try the Google device.

(ETA We're not an Apply family, so Apple's version isn't for us.)
It's extremely creepy that you keep referring to Alexa as "she" and "her." Reminds me of that movie . . .

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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by BuckyBadger » Fri May 25, 2018 10:18 am

Rupert wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 10:14 am
BuckyBadger wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 7:53 am
I love my Alexa and this news doesn't concern me.

I agree that she's not for everyone. But I also like that Google automatically puts things form my emails into my calendar and reminds me of appointments and birthdays and whatnot.

We were early adopters with Alexa and our one regret is that maybe we would prefer Google Home, but we've got several Alexa devices set up so there's a lot of inertia to stay with her rather than change. Maybe someday we'll try the Google device.

(ETA We're not an Apply family, so Apple's version isn't for us.)
It's extremely creepy that you keep referring to Alexa as "she" and "her." Reminds me of that movie . . .
Only creepy if you make it creepy! Would you be happier it I called Alexa an "it?" They gave it a female voice, so I call it a "she."

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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by Rupert » Fri May 25, 2018 10:26 am

BuckyBadger wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 10:18 am
Rupert wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 10:14 am
BuckyBadger wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 7:53 am
I love my Alexa and this news doesn't concern me.

I agree that she's not for everyone. But I also like that Google automatically puts things form my emails into my calendar and reminds me of appointments and birthdays and whatnot.

We were early adopters with Alexa and our one regret is that maybe we would prefer Google Home, but we've got several Alexa devices set up so there's a lot of inertia to stay with her rather than change. Maybe someday we'll try the Google device.

(ETA We're not an Apply family, so Apple's version isn't for us.)
It's extremely creepy that you keep referring to Alexa as "she" and "her." Reminds me of that movie . . .
Only creepy if you make it creepy! Would you be happier it I called Alexa an "it?" They gave it a female voice, so I call it a "she."
It's a machine, so, yes, "it" please. And isn't it somewhat worrisome that these devices, designed to be at our beck and call, always seem to have female voices?

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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by jebmke » Fri May 25, 2018 10:31 am

Rupert wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 10:26 am
And isn't it somewhat worrisome that these devices, designed to be at our beck and call, always seem to have female voices?
If HAL had treated Dave with a little more respect, there might be male voices as well.
When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.

BuckyBadger
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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by BuckyBadger » Fri May 25, 2018 10:33 am

Rupert wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 10:26 am
BuckyBadger wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 10:18 am
Rupert wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 10:14 am
BuckyBadger wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 7:53 am
I love my Alexa and this news doesn't concern me.

I agree that she's not for everyone. But I also like that Google automatically puts things form my emails into my calendar and reminds me of appointments and birthdays and whatnot.

We were early adopters with Alexa and our one regret is that maybe we would prefer Google Home, but we've got several Alexa devices set up so there's a lot of inertia to stay with her rather than change. Maybe someday we'll try the Google device.

(ETA We're not an Apply family, so Apple's version isn't for us.)
It's extremely creepy that you keep referring to Alexa as "she" and "her." Reminds me of that movie . . .
Only creepy if you make it creepy! Would you be happier it I called Alexa an "it?" They gave it a female voice, so I call it a "she."
It's a machine, so, yes, "it" please. And isn't it somewhat worrisome that these devices, designed to be at our beck and call, always seem to have female voices?
Again, creepy is in the eye of the beholder. I will continue to refer to Alexa as her. I call my car a her, too. Named her and everything :sharebeer

Most GPS devices from years and years ago had and still have a female voice as default. They were designed by male designers. Maybe ask a design engineer or a social scientist why electron devices tend to have a default female voice.

Here, I googled for you:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/ ... oices.html
Last edited by BuckyBadger on Fri May 25, 2018 10:33 am, edited 1 time in total.

ResearchMed
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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by ResearchMed » Fri May 25, 2018 10:33 am

jebmke wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 10:02 am
SuperGrafx wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 8:57 am
luap wrote:
Thu May 24, 2018 7:36 pm
I know they are wildly popular, but I for one will never purchase one of these devices. I just don't find myself having the problems these things are promoted to solve.
100% in agreement here.
Seems like most of these smart devices are created to solve problems that really don't need solving in the first place.
So, you're saying you don't need
The appliance has three built-in cameras, which can beam live images of the fridge’s contents to a phone.
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/25/tech ... tchen.html
NOW you tell us that we could have been getting photos of the contents of our fridge - LIVE contents no less!

We barely survived without this...

I think we need a new phrase: TMF (Too Many Features), the inanimate version of TMI.

RM
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Rupert
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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by Rupert » Fri May 25, 2018 10:35 am

jebmke wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 10:31 am
Rupert wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 10:26 am
And isn't it somewhat worrisome that these devices, designed to be at our beck and call, always seem to have female voices?
If HAL had treated Dave with a little more respect, there might be male voices as well.
Ha! HAL notwithstanding, I do worry about what sort of unconscious signals we're sending our children with these things. It's at least an issue that should be thought about.

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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by TravelGeek » Fri May 25, 2018 10:39 am

Rupert wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 10:26 am
It's a machine, so, yes, "it" please. And isn't it somewhat worrisome that these devices, designed to be at our beck and call, always seem to have female voices?
Interestingly Google just yesterday sent me an email about new Home features. I can now choose among ten (?) voices and actually switched mine to a male voice last night. So it is a “he” now.

Our cars have a name and gender, too, by the way.

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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by jebmke » Fri May 25, 2018 10:42 am

ResearchMed wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 10:33 am
NOW you tell us that we could have been getting photos of the contents of our fridge - LIVE contents no less!

We barely survived without this...
At least we can finally answer the age-old question: "Who took the last beer?"
When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.

ResearchMed
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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by ResearchMed » Fri May 25, 2018 10:55 am

jebmke wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 10:42 am
ResearchMed wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 10:33 am
NOW you tell us that we could have been getting photos of the contents of our fridge - LIVE contents no less!

We barely survived without this...
At least we can finally answer the age-old question: "Who took the last beer?"
:happy

And we could have caught the vegetables dancing around and telling jokes, thinking they were safely private.

A LIVE photo!???
:shock:

Right. One MUST know if there is any half and half left because one forgot to keep track.
But heck, who is measuring the contents in that opaque container!? :annoyed
Where are all the automated dipsticks?
Shark tank anyone? :twisted:

RM
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anonenigma
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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by anonenigma » Fri May 25, 2018 11:06 am

TimeRunner wrote:
Thu May 24, 2018 8:03 pm
The device is pretty handy, but...you couldn't invent a better surveillance state device, one that people will pay money to install. Fortunately, all our conversation is pretty humdrum. :wink:
In George Orwell's novel, 1984,my favorite scene is where Winston is talking with the landlord of the love nest he plans to rent. He is pleased that it apparently does not have a telescreen. The landlord responds that he never felt the need to buy one.

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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by Blueskies123 » Fri May 25, 2018 12:21 pm

I am not concerned. All they would hear is me and wife arguing.

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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by Blueskies123 » Fri May 25, 2018 12:23 pm

anonenigma wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 11:06 am
TimeRunner wrote:
Thu May 24, 2018 8:03 pm
The device is pretty handy, but...you couldn't invent a better surveillance state device, one that people will pay money to install. Fortunately, all our conversation is pretty humdrum. :wink:
In George Orwell's novel, 1984,my favorite scene is where Winston is talking with the landlord of the love nest he plans to rent. He is pleased that it apparently does not have a telescreen. The landlord responds that he never felt the need to buy one.
By the way, if you have amazon prime this movie is free. I watched it last week, I forgot how disturbing it was, especially today.

ianferrel
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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by ianferrel » Fri May 25, 2018 12:58 pm

lthenderson wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 8:06 am
Another fluff piece used to instill fear in those with no idea what steps had to occur for this to happen, not to mention that the couple absolutely ignored what their echo was asking them. Here were those steps:
Blaming the victim. Is there any reason to believe that they even heard what the echo was asking them? The microphones on those things don't have the same resolution as human ears, so it's quite possible that it could hear the people talking while they were simply out of earshot of its confirmation requests.

There is a major fundamental problem with any speech-driven interface: we talk all the time, and it's usually not to our devices. Handling the "control channel" with speech (basically, turning the device into listening mode by talking to it) can't ever be done perfectly. So the question you should ask yourself is "how willing am I to have this device occasionally execute random bits of its programming?"

If its programming is limited to "buy me an X" (worst case, you pay a bit of money and return it), or "play some music" (worst case, you have to go turn it off), then that's not so bad.

But of course they're not limited to those relatively benign uses. They hook into all sorts of other things. Shipping such a device with a "record the audio in this room and send it to someone" is just pure folly. That's got a really really bad worst case.

TravelGeek
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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by TravelGeek » Fri May 25, 2018 1:40 pm

ianferrel wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 12:58 pm
Blaming the victim. Is there any reason to believe that they even heard what the echo was asking them? The microphones on those things don't have the same resolution as human ears, so it's quite possible that it could hear the people talking while they were simply out of earshot of its confirmation requests.

There is a major fundamental problem with any speech-driven interface: we talk all the time, and it's usually not to our devices. Handling the "control channel" with speech (basically, turning the device into listening mode by talking to it) can't ever be done perfectly. So the question you should ask yourself is "how willing am I to have this device occasionally execute random bits of its programming?"

If its programming is limited to "buy me an X" (worst case, you pay a bit of money and return it), or "play some music" (worst case, you have to go turn it off), then that's not so bad.

But of course they're not limited to those relatively benign uses. They hook into all sorts of other things. Shipping such a device with a "record the audio in this room and send it to someone" is just pure folly. That's got a really really bad worst case.
I suspect there is still room for improvement regarding activating listening mode. Most things can never be done perfectly, but that doesn't stop us from using them. See the Tesla Auto Pilot discussions ;)

I think one lesson perhaps learned here is that these devices should give the owner more configuration flexibility. I have disabled "personal results" on my Google Home, which restricts it from accessing my calendar and contacts. This takes away features (including making calls to my contacts from the device), but I really don't need that and would rather not having a device sitting in my living room that could interact with contacts accidentally (butt dialing 2.0).

So... how about putting that Echo Spot or Show in the bedroom? ;)

UpperNwGuy
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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by UpperNwGuy » Fri May 25, 2018 2:45 pm

I live alone, so Alexa hears no conversation. Once in a rare while she hears something on the TV that causes her to say that she’s sorry, but she doesn’t understand.

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jabberwockOG
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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by jabberwockOG » Fri May 25, 2018 4:58 pm

ianferrel wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 12:58 pm
lthenderson wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 8:06 am
Another fluff piece used to instill fear in those with no idea what steps had to occur for this to happen, not to mention that the couple absolutely ignored what their echo was asking them. Here were those steps:
Blaming the victim. Is there any reason to believe that they even heard what the echo was asking them? The microphones on those things don't have the same resolution as human ears, so it's quite possible that it could hear the people talking while they were simply out of earshot of its confirmation requests.

There is a major fundamental problem with any speech-driven interface: we talk all the time, and it's usually not to our devices. Handling the "control channel" with speech (basically, turning the device into listening mode by talking to it) can't ever be done perfectly. So the question you should ask yourself is "how willing am I to have this device occasionally execute random bits of its programming?"

If its programming is limited to "buy me an X" (worst case, you pay a bit of money and return it), or "play some music" (worst case, you have to go turn it off), then that's not so bad.

But of course they're not limited to those relatively benign uses. They hook into all sorts of other things. Shipping such a device with a "record the audio in this room and send it to someone" is just pure folly. That's got a really really bad worst case.

I assure you this specific case, while a bad one with significant potential for negative consequence, is far from worse case of rare but very real accidental/inadvertent negative possible outcomes using these as a trusted device.

beardsworth
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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by beardsworth » Fri May 25, 2018 6:35 pm

Among other places in literature, this kind of situation was already contemplated in Orwell's 1984, where the televisions watch the people.

I agree with previous comments that these kinds of devices are "solutions" in search of a problem, and the idea of having one of these in my home gives me the creeps.

NextMil
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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by NextMil » Fri May 25, 2018 7:30 pm

The world will always have Luddites.

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roymeo
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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by roymeo » Fri May 25, 2018 7:35 pm

I have a friend that was mixing a song....it was going to start "Alexa, turn off the lights."
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rcjchicity
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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by rcjchicity » Fri May 25, 2018 9:27 pm

We joke that because our 2-and 4-year old throw temper tantrums and scream for 90% of their waking hours (or it just feels like it), that Alexa has put our household on mute in the spying department.

investor4life
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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by investor4life » Sat May 26, 2018 11:53 am

Our Google Home has triggered a couple times when watching TV (and, as far as I can tell, "Ok, Google" never occurred during the broadcast). We use it mainly for music-on-demand and simply mute/unmute the microphone via voice command (to turn it off) and button (to turn it on). A minor inconvenience...but we've gotten used to it.

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blaugranamd
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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by blaugranamd » Sat May 26, 2018 12:01 pm

luap wrote:
Thu May 24, 2018 7:36 pm
I know they are wildly popular, but I for one will never purchase one of these devices. I just don't find myself having the problems these things are promoted to solve.
Ditto. I've never even liked the voice command features I do have on my Android or Samsung devices.
-- Don't mistake more funds for more diversity: Total Int'l + Total Market = 7k to 10k stocks -- | -- Market return does NOT = average nor 50th percentile, rather 80-90th percentile long term ---

beardsworth
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Re: Alexa Echo sent family's audio file to a contact

Post by beardsworth » Sat May 26, 2018 12:13 pm

NextMil wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 7:30 pm
The world will always have Luddites.
In functional terms a "Luddite" is just someone who is more cautious about a particular technology than the person wielding the pejorative description "Luddite." :)

In any case, anyone using a sophisticated computer on a high speed connection to a personal finance forum conducted on the Internet can't be legitimately described as a present-day Luddite. Better to say, in a non-judgmental kind of way, that some people like Alexa-type devices and are willing to accept their possible drawbacks, while others don't.

Every technology does things to people as well as for them. Our society has a tendency to focus mainly on the latter and to discount or dismiss the former.

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