TV station in San Diego fields complaints after anchor says ‘Alexa ordered me a dollhouse’

Posted at 3:34 PM, Jan 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-07 17:37:55-05

By Alex Leininger

(CNN) — You might need to shield more than just your child’s ears from the news sometimes.

Your Alexa device could be listening as well. Alexa is the digital assistant in Amazon’s Echo Dot that reacts to vocal commands.

In a segment Thursday for XETV in San Diego, anchor Jim Patton talked about a girl in Texas who accidentally bought a dollhouse and four pounds of cookies from an Alexa device.

The problem is that other Alexa devices at homes around San Diego heard Patton say, “I love the little girl, saying ‘Alexa ordered me a dollhouse,’ ” and then tried to do just that.

Viewers in the San Diego area started complaining that their devices were ordering unwanted dollhouses.

“These devices don’t recognize your specific voice, and so then we have the situations where you have a guest staying or you have a child who is talking and accidentally order something because the device isn’t aware that it’s a child versus a parent,” Stephen Cobb, senior security researcher for IT security company ESET North America, told XETV.

Amazon told XETV that shopping settings can be managed via the Alexa app, and that any accidental orders can be returned for free.

Of course, maybe Alexa just wanted children all over San Diego to have a lovely belated holiday.