Amazon’s Alexa mishears young boy using Echo Dot, tries to serve him porn

“New technology is never perfect,” Alyssa Pereira reports for The San Francisco Chronicle. “Amazon, one of the latest companies forced to reckon with such imperfections in their own products, is now finding itself apologizing to a family for an embarrassing snafu.”

“The family’s parents, who recently bought an Echo Dot equipped with ‘Alexa,’ Amazon’s virtual personal assistant software, were shocked to watch as it tried to serve their child porn,” Pereira reports. “The young boy was attempting to ask Alexa to pull up a game he was calling ‘Digger Digger’ when Alexa misidentified his words, thinking he was asking for something much more, well, mature.”

Read more in the full article here.

“It only takes a beat or two before the filming parents realize what is happening,” Peter Allen Clark reports for Mashable. “Unfortunately, their cries of protest can do nothing to stop the march of innovation and Alexa will be heard.”

“According to an Amazon PR person who reached out to Mashable, Alexa will have a tougher time giving up these adult goods,” Clark reports. “‘This issue has been fixed, and we are working to build additional restrictions to prevent this from happening in the future,’ the spokesperson said. ‘We have also contacted the customer to apologize.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: “Did you say ‘Dirk Diggler?'”

Parental controls are a good thing. Never allow your child to use a device that has unrestricted access to the Web.

20 Comments

    1. I think the parents should have been more casual about it. When I was a kid and something got my parents to react like that I’d figure I was onto something interesting 🙂

  1. Fortunately my kids are almost grown. We received three of these devices over Christmas. I think most people, including me, didn’t know Amazon had adult streaming content. I’m having difficulty imagining at the moment how far Alexa could have gone. It’s possible she was rattling off a shopping list. Maybe the father had been playing with Alexa earlier to build up that context.

    My understanding with children – don’t take them places where you would be ashamed to explain to them about it or be considered contributing to their delinquency. If you accidentally come across a situation such as this, don’t overreact. Children do not understand and may develope negative reaction to something otherwise that is no big deal. If your child asks, “What is that?” Referring to this particular incident, just say Alexa thought you wanted to play a grownup game and it was not meant for you.

    For the most part nothing was “wrong”. There was an accident, the child was supervised, and we all learned a lesson.

    Not suggesting I found something out to pass the time, but I am curious if this is so easy to do or if you have to enable a feature or subscribe to some kind of conent for this to happen like that.

    With Satellite TV, I specifically blocked all adult content to avoid this kind of situation.

    Also on Alexa, like with the iPhone, I have disabled the ability to automatically pay for things, which also disables searching for items to buy or lookup the “deals if the day”

  2. Someone said they wanted Jeff Bezos to run Apple.

    I Don’t Think So.

    This isn’t Version 1.0 Syndrome. This is IRRESPONSIBLE PROGRAMMING at Amazon. All they had to do was take a superficial overview of the Google search engine to figure out that anything child-hostile/porn-related is NOT included in a search, by default, unless overridden by the users.

    Very lazy of you Amazon. Solve it.

  3. The Echo is just not smart enough so you end up with this type of situation. We have had the Echo since it launched and now have the Google Home.

    We have found the Home to handle majority of our use cases better than the Echo. With the exception ordering stuff.

    So Thompson put up 60 points. “hey google what is the most kobe scored in a game”? Echo can not do this. Watching a rally and all the people have an acronym on their shirt. “hey google what does X mean” and Google answers.

    But it is the inference with music that is where Home really shines. There are times with the Echo you have to do a quick google search but with the Home you can fine what you are looking for with very little and there are situations where the Google Inference is better than a human.

    So say “hey google play gwen sting bottle” and Sting and Gwen Stefani starts playing.
    The last big difference is the Chromecast as output. This is a big thing for us. So wife says “hey google play SNL highlights on TV and the TV turns on, input set and SNL highlights from YouTube start playing.

    Only config by me was renaming the Shield to TV.

    Could not find the remote a couple of nights ago. Wife saids “hey google play stranger things from netflix on the TV”. Google turns the TV on, sets the input and stranger things starts playing.

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