By Praveen Kannan and Anna Strokolyst The Hotspot Shield team believes the internet should be open and secure …
It’s not a cute, endearing laugh. It’s an evil, scary cackle that has caused people to unplug their Amazon Echos and hide under the duvet. The sinister laugh occurs spontaneously, lacking warning, and without even needing to mention Alexa’s name to initiate conversation.
It isn’t an exaggeration to suggest that people are freaking out. Social media and Reddit are abuzz with stories. One Twitter user said, “The laugh wasn’t in the Alexa voice. It sounded like a real person.” While another noted, “There’s a good chance I get murdered tonight.”
We all know by now that the Echo, and other smart home devices like Google Home, listen to our conversations; it’s how they respond instantly upon command. For Alexa to answer your question about what the weather will do today, she needs to be listening to each and every word you say in case you mutter her name. That, in of itself, is kind of freaky, and it has caused concern among privacy advocates.
What’s more, law enforcement even attempted to get access to the private conversations recorded on an Echo device to help solve a murder (yes, Alexa doesn’t just listen, she records).
But the laugh?
People are WAY more spooked about Alexa’s evil chuckle than they are about their conversations being stored.
I suppose that makes sense: After all, we have the ability to stop Alexa or our Google Home from recording what we say. We can simply press mute. And we can delve into the apps and adjust our privacy settings to delete our voice recording history. In this sense, while this invasion of our privacy is becoming a real and legitimate concern going forward, we hold some comfort in the fact that many of the cards are in our own hands. But NO ONE can understand why the hell Alexa is laughing at them.
You could just unplug her. Many people did, in fact, like the Reddit user who wrote that Alexa had a “chilling witch-like laugh” and that “it scared the wife and my 5 year old so badly that we unplugged her.” When they later plucked up the courage to plug Alexa back in and asked her to laugh, all the various “laughs” that Alexa could muster were apparently nothing like the ominous cackle they heard before.
This has some people wondering if the issue was due to a hack. In truth, we don’t know what’s causing the spontaneous evil laughter, but Amazon has acknowledged that it is aware of the issue and is working to fix it.
Hack or not, it brings up a fresh reminder about how vulnerable we are in this digital age, where practically every device we buy requires connection to the internet. There are even smart mattresses available online, and trash cans that connect to the web. All of this connectivity, while useful for the consumer (maybe not so much with regards to the trash can), opens the door for hackers. So it brings to light the importance of upping our personal online privacy and security measures to be prepared for the exponential increase in risk.
As for the laughing, I wouldn’t worry too much. Unless, that is, you watch a lot of horror movies. Because in fairness, this does sound like a plot fitting of M. Night Shyamalan.
Photo via MjZ Photography on Flickr