Amazon Blames Human Error for Sharing 1,700 Alexa Audio Files
This week, Amazon is having to apologize for allowing some 1,700 audio recordings made by one Alexa user to be shared with another Alexa user. The reason given is one of "human error."
As Reuters reports, an Amazon customer in Germany had asked Alexa to allow him to listen to his activities as logged by the voice assistant through is smart speaker. Instead, he was sent a link which allowed access to 1,700 audio files from another Alexa user he had no association with. The recordings apparently consisted of conversations between a man and woman.
When the customer who received access to the recordings reported it to Amazon, he did not get an immediate response, but the files were removed from the provided link soon after. However, the recordings had already been downloaded by the customer leaving it up to him to delete them.
An Amazon spokesperson responded to news of the incident by explaining, "This unfortunate case was the result of a human error and an isolated single case ... We resolved the issue with the two customers involved and took measures to further optimize our processes. As a precautionary measure we contacted the relevant authorities."
What's surprising here is that a human was involved at all in the retrieval of audio files by an Alexa user. I'd expect that to be an automated process linked to the customer's account, but clearly that isn't the case, at least in this instance. The fact Amazon is referring to this as an isolated case suggests it may be an automated system, but human intervention was required which resulted in a mistake being made.
If nothing else, this acts as a reminder that your data online is only private as long as the servers storing it and the gatekeepers guarding access to it don't mess up. If they do, then your privacy is gone and all we're left with is apologies and our privacy fears heightened.