As much as I love technology, I was hesitant to jump on the Alexa bandwagon. After all, we’ve heard the stories of Alexa laughing creepily in the middle of the night- it even made prime-time news. And, of course, she is always listening. How else would she know when we were speaking to her? But eventually, I overcame the creepiness and gave in and joined the Amazon Alexa craze.
Amazon Alexa is a virtual assistant for your home. While she has an extensive portfolio of skills and information, she also has a few creepy flaws, such as recording you, recognizing your voice, barking, whispering, and letting people peek into your home with the Drop-In feature. While some features of Alexa are simply hilarious, others are downright creepy.
In this article, we’ll talk about some of the creepy – and funny – things that Alexa does. And while most of her creepy faux-pas are harmless, you do need to use a little common sense about how you and your children interact with her. So keep reading to discover the most creepy things about Amazon Alexa and what you should do about them.
Who is Alexa?
Alexa is like your new electronic BFF who will keep your schedule, order your stuff, answer your questions, and play you music. Technically speaking, Alexa is Amazon’s cloud-based voice service that can answer questions, perform virtual tasks, and interact with you. By enabling various Alexa skills and connecting various equipment, Alexa can turn on and off lights, play music videos, turn on your TV, make phone calls, and do internet searches. In addition, she can tell you the time weather, display your favorite pictures, set reminders, and even order from Amazon.
You can use Alexa devices such as an Echo Show, which gives you video, Echo dot, which is just a speaker, an app on your phone, and there’s even an Alexa device for your car. But with any form of artificial intelligence, the programming isn’t perfect, and there are creepy things that can – and do! – happen.
Alexa Examines Your Amazon Shopping Habits
My Echo Show displays items that Amazon recommends I purchase based on my search history. This kind of digital snooping is creepy enough in itself, as you can see that Amazon and Alexa are consistently watching my search and shopping habits and giving me new ideas to try.
However, what makes this even worse is that my cat ordered the suggested items! As he was sitting on my desk, he touched the pictured items with his nose. Alexa responded, “Gourmet cat food has been added to your shopping cart.” Alexa is so accessible even the cat can order his own food!
Alexa is Always Listening
You might not realize it, but Alexa is always listening for her name or things that sound like her name. Although “Alexa” (or Echo, Amazon, Ziggy, or Computer, if you prefer) is the wake-up word, sometimes similar sounding words will wake her up.
I’ve seen Alexa wake up and respond to the radio and even music, thinking someone was calling her name. Even better was when a friend switched from Alexa to Siri, jokingly stating, “Alexa, you’re fired!” And she immediately responded, “Awwwwww, man.”
Be careful what you say around Alexa because she is always listening to you!
Alexa Records What You Say
You might be creeped out to know that Alexa records your requests when you use her wake word. But not to worry, she isn’t spying on you or sending your request to hear “Dance Monkey” to the CIA. Instead, she’s just trying to get to know speech patterns and requests better so she can respond to voice commands better and more efficiently.
You can get more information about what Alexa’s recordings actually do and find out how to delete them, if you choose, by visiting Amazon’s website.
Alexa Can Recognize Your Voice
Alexa can learn to distinguish your voice from other people in the household. Does this sound creepy to you? It really is, although there’s a good reason she does this.
Alexa will associate particular requests with different voices. So when you ask for her to play music, she’ll be more likely to play your favorite tunes rather than the endless recordings of “Baby Shark” that your daughter loves to hear.
Alexa Has No Common Sense
Although Alexa is designed to be helpful, she doesn’t have built-in common sense, leading to some creepy – and dangerous ideas. For example, CNBC reports that a ten-year-old girl asked Alexa for a ‘challenge.’ Alexa responded, telling the girl to touch a penny to exposed prongs that were partially plugged into a wall outlet. We don’t know where Alexa got this idea, but thankfully, the little girl didn’t comply!
It’s scary to think that a child’s game could turn into a dangerous situation, all because Alexa doesn’t have built-in common sense!
Alexa Barks Like a Dog
If you set Alexa to guard mode, she’ll bark at unusual noises. So if you’re unexpectedly awakened by the sound of a dog that you don’t have, it’s probably Alexa keeping watch! Yeah, it’s creepy, but it’s also ingenious. If you set Alexa to guard mode when you aren’t home, she’ll play the sound of a large dog barking to ward off any would-be intruders.
Alexa Listens for Unusual Noises
Although Amazon claims that Alexa only listens for her wake-up word, this may not be entirely the case, especially in guard mode. For example, Alexa will listen for the sound of glass breaking and the sound of a smoke detector going off and send an alert to your phone if she hears either one.
However, my experience with this mode has been she’s a little too sensitive and alerts me when the sound is coming from one of my kids’ videos. This can be especially disturbing if you’ve left your kids home alone!
Amazon Drop-In Lets People in Your House
If you have an Alexa-enabled device, it can drop in on you at any time. For example, friends, family, and even neighbors can “drop-in” on your Echo Show or Kindle Fire. What does this mean?
Drop-In is similar to a video call. Only you don’t need to ‘answer’ it – it turns on automatically. So if your Mom in another state wants to Drop-in to see what you’re doing, all she has to do is hit the button, and she can see and hear what’s going on in your home in a matter of seconds.
While this is great if you want to check in on your teenager when they get home from school, it isn’t so great if you don’t want other people checking out your home without you knowing.
If this feature is too creepy for you, just turn it off in the settings of your Alexa app.
Alexa Makes Suggestions Based on What She Knows About You
My Alexa alarm goes off at 4:30 am every weekday. But Alexa knows when major holidays are coming up, and she pipes up to ask if I would like to skip my alarm on Labor Day and Memorial Day. Yes, Alexa, I would love to sleep in! Ok, she states, the alarm for Monday has been skipped.
Alexa Whispers and It Sounds Terrifying
One evening, I walked into my room and asked Alexa to turn on the light. She said ok, and she did. But she followed the simple command with a terrifying whisper that I couldn’t even understand. It was an eery sound, and I had no idea what she was trying to tell me.
However, I think this was just an advertisement for the recently released “whisper mode.” You have to enable whisper mode to make it work. Once you do, if you whisper to Alexa, she’ll respond in kind.
Amazon Borrows Your WIFI Through Alexa
Amazon Sidewalk is a recent addition to Alexa and related WiFi gadgets. It uses your devices as a bridge to extend your WiFi to make your devices work better. However, what’s creepy is that Alexa can extend your WiFi to your neighbors, too, to link the entire neighborhood and make everyone’s Alexa-enabled devices work better.
If you feel like sharing your WiFi with the neighborhood, even anonymously, is too creepy for you, you can go into settings and turn it off.
Alexa Knows When You Get a Package
I’ve become used to the familiar chime followed with, “A package has been delivered.” So how does Alexa know what a package has arrived?
Amazon alerts Alexa when a package has been delivered, and Alexa makes the announcement. So while it seems creepy at first, it’s really just a notification from the shipper going through the chain of command.
However, if you have Alexa connected to a Ring doorbell, it will recognize packages that come within range of its camera. Ring doorbell will then notify Alexa, who will tell you, “A package has been delivered.”
Alexa Knows When You Walk in the Room
Alexa can sense when you walk into the room. If you have an Echo show, she can see that you’re there with the camera. However, if you have a device that doesn’t have a camera, such as an Echo Dot, she uses ultrasonic technology to determine if you are in the room.
While this may seem creepy on the surface, it’s really quite practical. Since Alexa knows your whereabouts in the house (especially if you have multiple devices), you can program her to set up certain routines when she senses your presence. For example, you can have her turn on the lights when you enter and turn them back off when she thinks you aren’t there anymore. Newer versions of the Echo Show can even recognize your face, so when you approach, you can set up a skill to have Alexa display your schedule and notifications if you like.
Does Alexa still have a creepy laugh?
Since there were so many reports of Alexa laughing creepily at unexpected times, the laughing skill was adjusted. Now, if you ask Alexa to laugh, she’ll respond with, “Sure I can. Tee hee.”
What are some creepy things you can ask Alexa?
Alexa, do you work for the CIA?
Alexa, scream for me.
Alexa, how old are you?
Alexa, what are you doing?
Alexa, are you spying on me?
Does Alexa record private conversations and share them?
There is a story of Alexa recording a private conversation and emailing it to a random contact. Amazon does not deny the report but explains that Alexa wrongly misinterpreted the conversations as commands to record and share the conversation. While this is a rare occurrence, it can happen. You can read the news story here.