Police forced to interfere after Alexa device begins party on its own
A German man is being forced to pay up after his personal assistant spontaneously began to blast music in the middle of the night.
Amazon’s smart assistant, Alexa, responds to voice commands, and is capable of providing information from the internet such as weather and traffic conditions, as well as controlling connected devices around the home, and ordering food or taxis.
Oliver Haberstroh, who lives in Hamburg, shared his story in a post on Amazon Germany’s Facebook page, which has received reactions from tens of thousands of users.
According to Haberstroh, he had left his sixth floor flat empty and silent on a Friday night for a drink. While he was absent, his Alexa device began to play extremely loud music at some time between 1.50am and 3.00am. His neighbours, woken up and frustrated by the noise, began knocking, calling and shouting for the music to stop, and eventually called the police.
“While I was relaxing and enjoying a beer, Alex managed on her own, without command and without me using my phone, to switch on at full volume and have her own party in my flat,” he wrote, in German.
After the police arrived at his flat, they found the flat empty, and summoned a locksmith to forcibly enter. Nobody was inside, but they found the black speakers – normally activated by voice control – booming the music. The police offers switched off the music and left.
When Haberstroh arrived home later that night, he found that a new lock had been fitted to the door of his flat. After visiting the police station to pick up the keys for the new lock, he was given a bill from the locksmith.
According to Haberstroh, he had not remotely activated Alexa, and is still bewildered by how the music was switched on. The windows of his flat were closed, he told Amazon’s customer service, so it was not possible that Alexa was activated by accidental instructions of passers-by.
“I was perfectly happy with your service and Alexa, however, the relationship between Alexa and I has taken a U-turn since Friday night,” he wrote. “You could say it’s complicated… we have to go our separate ways.”
Haberstroh appears to have got rid of his Alexa after the experience, but not before asking it if it would cover the costs of the locksmith’s services. He said that Alexa did not understand the question.
Privacy campaigners have raised concerns over voice-controlled assistants, which must be constantly “listening” in order to respond to a voice command. It was revealed in September that the most popular of these devices were vulnerable to attacks using “silent voices” to issue commands.