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Amazon explains why Alexa recorded a couple’s conversation and then sent it to someone else

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Amazon Echo and Echo Plus smart speakers, behind, sit near illuminated Echo Button devices.Elaine Thompson/AP Photo files

Amazon.com Inc. said a series of miscues picked up by one of its voice-activated Echo speakers during an Oregon couple’s private conversation resulted in the chat being recorded and sent to one of their acquaintances without their knowledge.

The tech company responded Wednesday to a KIRO 7 news report that the pair got a phone call recently from the acquaintance, one of the husband’s employees, saying “unplug your Alexa devices right now. You’re being hacked.” The Portland couple used Amazon’s voice-activated devices throughout their home to control heat, lights and security, according to the news report.

Amazon explained the series of events that triggered the episode in an emailed statement. The Echo woke after hearing a word in the couple’s conversation that sounded like “Alexa” — the usual trigger to begin recording. The speaker later heard “send message” during the conversation, at which point the device asked, “to whom?” The pair continued talking in the background and the Echo’s system interpreted part of the chat to identify a name in the couple’s contact list. Alexa then asked aloud if they wanted to send a message to that contact and heard “right” in more background conversation.

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