While Amazon Echo is a great device that helps you do things like ordering groceries or even calling an Uber, it can sometimes be triggered by commands you didn't actually give. In a bizarre incident, an offhand Alexa command 'for ordering a dollhouse' said on national television set off an actual order through many Amazon Echo units across San Diego. This mishap has raised concerns on the use of voice commands assistants, and suggested measures are now being advised to avoid such instances in the future.
In CW6's morning show, anchors Jim Patton and Lynda Martin were talking about a child who accidentally bought a dollhouse and four pounds of cookies through Amazon Echo when Patton said the words, "Alexa ordered me a dollhouse". This triggered off a chain of orders across San Diego homes where the morning show was playing on TV.
Many users complained to CW6 that their Echo devices tried to order a dollhouse, just because the TV was on, and the anchor said the command. This incident, while being a great testimony to all those machine-will-rule-the-world sci-fi movies, is also a great eye-opener raising several security and privacy concerns.
Even though Alexa is a great personal assistant, it does not recognise its owner and listens to any voice command, as long as 'Alexa' is prefixed before it. This could cause a stranger person to misuse it, or children to order unnecessary things and billing it to your account unintentionally.
Senior security expert Steven Cobb recommends diving into Settings to control personal information sharing and micro-manage the Internet-connected home assistant. Cobb also said that the US Federal Trade Commission is already looking into voice commands and toys to make sure that the technology is safe and secure. He claims that future home assistants will be more sophisticated and secure.
For now, head to the Alexa app on your smartphone and set your Shopping Settings to your preference. You could turn off the voice purchase settings altogether or create a confirmation code before any order. Amazon has also confirmed that all accidental orders can be returned for free. Although, the most immediate solution for now, is to turn the TV volume down.