Overheard and then some

If Amazon is listening, perhaps you should watch what you say:

A San Diego TV station sparked complaints this week — after an on-air report about a girl who ordered a dollhouse via her parents’ Amazon Echo caused Echoes in viewers’ homes to also attempt to order dollhouses.

Telly station CW-6 said the blunder happened during a Thursday morning news package about a Texan six-year-old who racked up big charges while talking to an Echo gadget in her home. According to her parents’ Amazon account, their daughter said: “Can you play dollhouse with me and get me a dollhouse?” Next thing they knew, a $160 KidKraft Sparkle Mansion dollhouse and four pounds of sugar cookies arrived on their doorstep.

During that story’s segment, a CW-6 news presenter remarked: “I love the little girl, saying ‘Alexa ordered me a dollhouse’.”

That, apparently, was enough to set off Alexa-powered Echo boxes around San Diego on their own shopping sprees. The California station admitted plenty of viewers complained that the TV broadcast caused their voice-controlled personal assistants to try to place orders for dollhouses on Amazon.

Lesson learned: voice-command ordering is ON by default on these devices.

Just one more precaution we’ll have to learn as we surround ourselves with the Internet of God Knows What.


  1. fillyjonk »

    8 January 2017 · 1:26 pm

    I get that this is a serious flaw, and I wouldn’t have one of those things in my house (I don’t want a refrigerator smarter than I am), but there is something frankly kind of surreal and funny about dozens of Echos ordering dollhouses because the tv told them to.

  2. McG »

    8 January 2017 · 3:12 pm

    Amazon has perfected artificial intelligence. Humanity is officially redundant.

  3. Jay »

    9 January 2017 · 3:23 pm

    I suspect Skynet I will not be too successful, if it’s building a fortress of doll houses and arming itself with sugar cookies.

  4. fillyjonk »

    10 January 2017 · 10:30 am

    I dunno, Jay. According to Gary Taubes, sugar is pretty damn dangerous.

    (A fortress of doll houses and armed with sugar cookies sounds suspiciously like what I’d do if I ever “snapped” and went postal. Though there’d have to be a weaponized Hello Kitty in there somewhere)

  5. nightfly »

    11 January 2017 · 11:34 am

    Somewhere, the witch from Hansel and Gretel is cackling with glee.

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