In an age where more and more connected devices are getting “always listening” capabilities, our greatest concerns have been about privacy and what’s actually recorded. Turns out, what we should’ve been fearing is our devices listening in and following commands from the wrong thing. This exact scenario became a reality this week when Amazon Echo owners all over San Diego found their speaker ordering dollhouses after hearing “Alexa ordered me a dollhouse” from the TV news.
The incident occurred on Thursday morning when San Diego’s CW6 News was reporting on a six-year-old in Texas who placed an order on her parent’s Amazon account by asking the family’s Echo “can you play dollhouse with me and get me a dollhouse?” The parents were surprised to learn what happened when a $160 dollhouse was delivered to their home.
During their report on this news, a CW6 anchor commented, “I love the little girl, saying ‘Alexa ordered me a dollhouse.'” This was all it took for the Echo speakers belonging to those watching the broadcast to attempt their own orders. It’s unclear exactly how many San Diego residents actually had their devices following instructions from the TV, but the news station admits it received a handful of viewer complaints.
It’s actually a bit fitting that this incident took place during CES this week, where Alexa has arguably been the stand-out product of the show, with dozens of integrations with new devices and services, including cars. And for the record, this kind of thing can easily be prevented by adjusting Alexa’s settings to turn off orders placed by voice, or require a confirmation code.
Update: An Amazon spokesperson provided us with the following statement:
“You must ask Alexa to order a product and then confirm the purchase with a “yes” response to purchase via voice. If you asked Alexa to order something on accident, simply say “no” when asked to confirm. You can also manage your shopping settings in the Alexa app, such as turning off voice purchasing or requiring a confirmation code before every order. To learn more, go to Manage Voice Purchasing Settings. Additionally, orders you place for physical products are eligible for free returns.”
SOURCE: CW6 San Diego