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Privacy flaw: Why should you think twice before enabling Alexa Calling?

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Earlier this week, Amazon unveiled Alexa Calling, the feature that lets users send free voice calls and messages through all Echo devices. The feature currently comes up with a recently discovered major privacy flaw. How? You may ask.

So here’s the thing – the calling feature can not be enabled for your selective contacts. This simply implies anyone in your contacts list, who has your phone number and the Alexa mobile app, can place voice calls, record voice messages, and send text messages. In nutshell, they have got the access to that speaker in your home. You will receive all the messages and calls on your Echo devices as well as the Alexa app.

A user named Elise Oras brought this matter to light when she updated the Alexa app and enabled this feature.

When you allow Alexa to access your contacts, it imports all of those in the list who has an Echo device in their homes. You simply cannot curate your contacts to only add favorites to the list. So, either you get them all or nobody.

In addition, there’s currently no feature that lets you delete certain contacts from your Alexa Calling list. If you wish to delete one, you will have to erase that contact from your phone. Oras points out that there are people who are there on the list just so that you avoid contact with them. Also, you would not want to give your co-workers, some random vendors the access to that speaker at your home. And certainly, you don’t want to delete these contacts from your phone either.

What’s even more creepy (at least I think it is) is the fact, if you have blocked someone’s number on your phone, won’t matter when s/he calls on the Echo device. YES, they can call and you can do absolutely nothing as of now to prevent this from happening. This is because Alexa just uses your number and not your phone and the settings for voice calls. Hence, you cannot block the incoming calls at all.

So, when Elise tweeted about this to Amazon, they replied with this –

Okay, this is not all. There’s more one more loophole – if someone has you on their contacts, they can ring that device too. It would not matter whether you have them in your contact list or not.

The feature enables Alexa to support text messages, and akin to that calling feature, you cannot block the incoming messages. The content of the messages cannot be hidden too, you can delete them but cannot stop receiving them. Also, Anyone around you can play the voice messages and it does not require any kind of password to do that.

The only way you can prevent those unwanted calls and messages is by disabling the newest feature completely. And much to our dismay, Amazon has made this procedure even harder. You just cannot turn it off by heading over to the app’s settings. The users will have to call the company’s customer care service to make this happen.

So, my suggestion would be not to enable this feature until Amazon fixes this flaw!

 


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