Amazon then sent the man a download link which included tracked searches on the website, along with a whopping 1,700 recordings made by Alexa. of another customer. Instead, he was sent a link which allowed access to 1,700 audio files from another Alexa user he had no association with. "We have resolved the issue with the two customers involved and have taken steps to further improve our processes. As a precautionary measure we contacted the relevant authorities", a spokesperson for Amazon was quoted as saying by the same media.
The story was first reported by technlogy magazine C't in Germany.
Days later, both the victim and the receiver of the files were called by Amazon to discuss the incident.
Apparently, back in August this year, a Germany based Amazon.com customer, under the alias Martin Schneider, used the priviledges granted to him under the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to seek a copy of all data that the e-retail platform had on him.
It turned out that the guy, who has been given the pseudonym Martin Schneider, had received all the data - 1700 files worth of it - from another customer. According to c't magazine, this was peculiar to this user because he doesn't own any Alexa devices and had never used the service.
Once Alexa-enabled devices like the Amazon Echo hear their "wake word", they record every voice request a user makes and stores them on the company's servers.
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The recordings also gave out information, many of private nature, about the Alexa user's life.
In that case, Amazon said the assistant was responding to background conversations that that the device interpreted as voice commands. There were alarm clock and music commands, weather questions and also comments related to work and living habits.
"The potential uses for the Amazon datasets are off the charts", Marc Groman, an expert on privacy and technology policy who teaches at Georgetown Law, told reporters. An Amazon representative reportedly told them that one of their staff members had made a one-time error.
Amazon described the incident as an "isolated case" and put the mistake down to human error.