A Local News Broadcast Made Viewers’ Amazon Echoes Buy Stuff

Amazon Echo comes with a voice-activated assistant, Alexa, which performs tasks when you say things like “Alexa, stop saying porn terms at my toddler.” Oops. Besides porn-related mishaps and potentially endless conversations with Google Home, the Amazon Echo now has another kerfuffle under its belt: ordering products mentioned on a local news broadcast.

It started shortly after a six-year-old Texas girl scored a $170 dollhouse and four pounds of sugar cookies by talking to Alexa. TV station CW-6 in San Diego, California, was doing a morning news segment on the story when anchor Jim Patton said, “I love the little girl saying, ‘Alexa ordered me a dollhouse.’ ”

Much like the time Aaron Paul’s Xbox One commercial messed with viewers’ devices, CW-6 was contacted by viewers complaining their Amazon Echo tried to buy a dollhouse. The device starts recording when it hears the word Alexa; then it waits up to sixty seconds for a command. This has prompted fears about what it might be recording (police have already tried to subpoena the audio from at least one device). And users may also want to be concerned about what the device is doing when it mistakes something for a command, particularly since the device doesn’t currently obey specific voices only.

The default setting allows orders to be placed by voice. Users can shut off that default setting in the Alexa app, which sounds like a good idea if they plan to watch TV. People can also set up a four-digit code needed to confirm purchases, and Amazon has said they will allow free returns of any accidental orders of physical products.

(Via Quartz, CW6 San Diego, and WFLA)