Smart speaker gone rogue

Smart speaker gone rogue

We've all accidentally sent the wrong text to the wrong person, but having an entire conversation recorded by your smart home device and then sent to a friend without you knowing it? That's a privacy nightmare a Portland, OR family says they went through. The first they found out about this was when their friend called to say, "unplug your Alexa devices right now, you're being hacked."

"I think this raises several concerns, and this isn't the first time," says Randall Marshall, the Executive Director of Alabama's chapter of the ACLU.

Researchers this spring found a flaw in the Alexa voice assistant that let the Echo listen to people without them knowing - a flaw Amazon says it quickly fixed.

"If they simply can come on or be turned on remotely, I think that is very scary situation particularly in the confines of your own home," Marshall says.

Marshall says smart speakers should make it very clear when the device is listening or recording and give you the power to spot it.

"On any voice-activated system, there should be some sort of a light so that you know it's being recorded, and you have a hard switch to turn it off if you don't want what you're saying to be recorded," Marshall says.

Just as states struggle with writing new laws for drones or driverless cars, privacy advocates say smart speaker science is ahead of our ability to control it.

"I think this is an area in which our laws haven't quite caught up to the technology," Marshall says. "So there are privacy concerns both from government trying to access data that's collected, third parties accessing data collected."

Amazon says this was an isolated case that involved the echo mishearing a series of four different commands.

We reached out to Amazon for an update on what they've discovered since this initial event, but our requests went unreturned.

So how can you protect yourself? You can turn off message features on your smart speaker either by going to the settings on your device, or calling customer service, depending on which device you have. You can also keep your contacts list off your device by denying it access to contacts when you set it up, and pump up the volume on your device so you can hear it clearly if it starts asking you for a contact name or a follow up question.

To turn off messaging on your Alexa, you switch it into "Do Not Disturb" mode, and here's a helpful YouTube tutorial on how to do that.

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