It’s Confirmed: Alexa Is a Bad Listener

Streaming songs, ordering pizza, and booking cabs are no-brainers for Alexa, the voice-activated assistant installed on Amazon Echo devices. Unfortunately, Alexa also appears to enjoy engaging in a little unintentional retail therapy. A 6-year-old girl in Texas was able to order a $170 dollhouse and 4 pounds of sugar cookies, thanks to Alexa following orders. However, when TV anchor Jim Patton took to the airwaves on KFMB-TV to report the incident, he set in motion a string of orders he couldn’t have predicted. During the news segment, Patton said, “I love the little girl saying, ‘Alexa, order me a dollhouse.’” That, apparently, was enough to set off Alexa-powered Echo boxes around San Diego on their own shopping sprees. The California station admitted plenty of viewers complained that the TV broadcast caused their voice-controlled personal assistants to try to place orders for dollhouses on Amazon. The dollhouse incident is more proof that Alexa is always listening. The device starts recording whenever it hears the wake word “Alexa,” recording sound for up to 60 seconds each time. To avoid such blunders, users can tweak their speakers by installing a mandatory 4-digit code to confirm orders, or they can simply turn off the voice-controlled ordering feature completely through the Alexa app.