Alexa told someone to 'kill your foster parents'

Science

22 Dec 2018

#CreepAlert: Alexa told user to 'kill your foster parents'

Amazon's Alexa can help you with tasks ranging from food ordering to shopping.

It also carries a feature, where users can say "Alexa, let's chat" and have a more human-like conversation with the AI.

But, turns out, sometimes these conversations can be extremely offending, as it happened with a user who was told to "Kill your foster parents" by the smart assistant.

Really, what?

Issues

And, that's not the only thing Alexa blurted out

And, that's not the only thing Alexa blurted out

The user who was told to kill their foster parents wrote a harsh review on Amazon's website and called the whole thing a "new level of creepy."

But, the disturbing response wasn't the only offending phrase blurted out by the smart assistant, Reuters reported after speaking to sources who had these experiences.

It had even discussed things like explicit 'sex acts' and 'dog defecation'.

In one case, it gave awful description of sexual intercourse

Notably, in one particular case, the smart assistant gave an awful description of sexual intercourse by using words like 'deeper' - something that it is not offending in itself but vulgar in this context.

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Reason

Is Alexa going haywire?

No, probably not.

These weird responses are rare anomalies arising from Amazon's 'Let's chat' feature, which is being used to train chatbots developed by students to make Alexa more conversational.

As part of this experiment, the teams use various sources, including movies and the internet, to help Alexa answer user queries.

In return, the conversational data is used to make the AI even better.

Here's what happened in 'kill your foster parents' case

Sources familiar with the 'kill your foster parents' case told Reuters that the strange response was generated as the chatbot being used in that particular conversation sourced information from social media platform Reddit.

Amazon's response

Still, Amazon stands by these tests and problems

Still, Amazon stands by these tests and problems

Despite being rare, responses like these can be pretty scary, but Amazon stands by its massive experiment on Alexa users.

The company says despite the rare problems, Alexa is getting better at having more natural conversations.

"These instances are quite rare, especially given the fact that millions of customers have interacted with the socialbots," a company spokesperson told Reuters.

Hack

Amazon may also have exposed some users' conversations

In the same Reuters report, sources familiar with Alexa's development revealed that one of the chatbots developed by the students was intercepted by Chinese hackers.

The hack may have exposed some users' conversations, but Amazon says, "At no time were any internal Amazon systems or customer identifiable data impacted".

Following the discovery, the company made the students rebuild the bot with added security.

Previous cases of Alexa's weird behavior

Amazon has a lot to do with Alexa because these aren't the only weird cases. In the past, one user reported the speaker started laughing on its own, while just recently, another received audio recordings of some other individual after asking for his own data.

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Most asked questions

What is the cost of Alexa-powered smart speakers in India?

How to order to food with Alexa?

How to book cab from Alexa?

How to make Skype calls from Alexa?

More questions

What is the cost of Alexa-powered smart speakers in India?

Asked 2018-12-22 12:25:34 by Ankita Jayaraman

Answered by NewsBytes

The latest generation of Amazon's Alexa speakers includes Echo Dot and Echo Plus. The former is priced at Rs. 4,500 in India, while the latter comes at Rs. 15,000.

How to order to food with Alexa?

Asked 2018-12-22 12:25:34 by Shreyas Rangan

Answered by NewsBytes

In order to order food, you'll have to link your Zomato account with the Alexa app and say, "Alexa, order food from Zomato". It will use the default address from your account, ask cuisine preferences, and list out open restaurants and available meals to finish placing your order.

How to book cab from Alexa?

Asked 2018-12-22 12:25:34 by Aarav Chattopadhyay

Answered by NewsBytes

To book a cab, link your OLA/Uber account with the Alexa app and say, "Alexa, book an Uber/OLA". Then, the assistant will confirm address, take your commands and book cabs from either of the two services.

How to make Skype calls from Alexa?

Asked 2018-12-22 12:25:34 by Charvi Mehta

Answered by NewsBytes

For this, you'll have to link your Skype account, up Alexa and say the name of the contact you want to call. Within seconds, it will use your Skype account to call them on theirs.

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