Incident 34: Amazon Alexa Responding to Environmental Inputs

Description: There are multiple reports of Amazon Alexa products (Echo, Echo Dot) reacting and acting upon unintended stimulus, usually from television commercials or news reporter's voices.


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Alleged: Amazon developed and deployed an AI system, which harmed Alexa Device Owners.

Incident Stats

Incident ID
Report Count
Incident Date
Sean McGregor

CSETv0 Taxonomy Classifications

Taxonomy Details

Full Description

There are multiple reports of Amazon Alexa products (Echo, Echo Dot) reacting and acting upon unintended stimulus, usually from television commercials or news reporter's voices. In one case, a 6-year-old girl asked her Alexa Echo Dot to "play doll house with me and get me a doll house." The Alexa ordered a $150-170 dollhouse and four pounds of sugar cookies. When news reporters began covering this event, reports surfaced of the news anchor's voices triggering more Amazon Alexa products to order dollhouses. Other instances include a Superbowl advertisement that caused Amazon Alexa's to begin playing whale sounds, turn on/off hall lights, and order cat food delivered to the home.

Short Description

There are multiple reports of Amazon Alexa products (Echo, Echo Dot) reacting and acting upon unintended stimulus, usually from television commercials or news reporter's voices.



Harm Type

Financial harm

AI System Description

Amazon Alexa, a smart speaker that can recognize speech and be used to buy products from Amazon Marketplace

System Developer


Sector of Deployment

Information and communication

Relevant AI functions

Perception, Cognition, Action

AI Techniques

Amazon Alexa, natural language processing, virtual assistant, language recognition

AI Applications

voice recognition, natural language processing

Named Entities

Amazon, San Diego TV

Technology Purveyor


Beginning Date


Ending Date


Near Miss

Harm caused



Lives Lost


Infrastructure Sectors

Information technology

Data Inputs

environment audio, Alexa software

GMF Taxonomy Classifications

Taxonomy Details

Known AI Goal

AI Voice Assistant

Known AI Technology

Automatic Speech Recognition, Language Modeling, Acoustic Fingerprint

Known AI Technical Failure

Unsafe Exposure or Access, Misuse

Potential AI Technical Failure

Unauthorized Data, Inadequate Anonymization, Context Misidentification, Lack of Capability Control, Underspecification

CSETv1 Taxonomy Classifications

Taxonomy Details

Harm Distribution Basis


Sector of Deployment

wholesale and retail trade, information and communication

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6-year-old accidentally orders high-end treats with Amazon's Alexa · 2017

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The retail giant's Alexa voice assistant aims to revolutionize the shopping experience, but recently delivered a big surprise to one six-year-old's parents.

Dallas, Tx. resident Megan Neitzel, …

Amazon gently stresses several ways Alexa could have stopped 6-year-old girl’s dollhouse order · 2017

Step away from the Dot, tiny online shopper.

When a 6-year-old girl in Texas managed to get herself a big tin of cookies and a fancy new dollhouse thanks to Amazon’s voice-enabled assistant Alexa in her family’s Echo device, the incident wa…

6-year-old orders doll house, cookies using Amazon’s Alexa app · 2017

DALLAS, Texas — It's the Amazon order that's gone viral.

A six-year-old girl's conversation with Amazon's voice-activated Echo Dot ended up with her parents being charged for a dollhouse and four pounds of cookies.

For 6-year-old Brooke Nei…

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Who needs Santa? Girl asks Amazon's Alexa for dollhouse and cookies · 2017

Story highlights Amazon Echo Dot's digital assistant delivered when girl asked for a dollhouse and snacks

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(CNN) It was either a late Christmas present or an unfu…

TV news report prompts viewers' Amazon Echo devices to order unwanted dollhouses · 2017

A TV news report in San Diego about the child that accidentally ordered a dollhouse via Amazon’s Alexa inadvertently set off some viewers’ Echo devices, which in turn tried to order dollhouses using Alexa.

The Amazon Echo devices connect to…

Child orders dollhouse, cookies using Alexa · 2017

Child orders dollhouse, cookies using Alexa

DALLAS (CNN) — It’s the amazon order that’s gone viral.

A 6-year-old girl’s conversation with Amazon’s voice-activated Echo Dot wound up with her parents being charged for a dollhouse and four pou…

Girl who order dollhouse with Amazon's Alexa donates it to hospital · 2017
  • The 6-year-old North Texas girl who made headlines earlier this week after asking Amazon’s Alexa to order her a dollhouse and cookies has turned the incident into something positive.

Brooke Neitzel and her family ate the cookies, but dona…

TV anchor says live on-air 'Alexa, order me a dollhouse' - guess what happens next · 2017

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 …

Amazon’s Alexa started ordering people dollhouses after hearing its name on TV · 2017

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Amazon’s Alexa heard her name and tried to order up a ton of dollhouses · 2017

Alexa is turning out to be a pretty bad listener.

Streaming songs, ordering pizza, and booking cabs are no-brainers for Alexa, the voice-activated assistant installed on Amazon Echo devices. But Alexa also unfortunately appears to enjoy eng…

Amazon Echo orders doll houses after 'hearing' TV presenter talking · 2017

Amazon released the Echo in the UK in September 2016

A US TV station has been inundated with complaints after viewers' voice-commanded Amazon Echo systems "heard" a presenter's remarks about doll houses - and started ordering them.

Using th…

Newsreader says, ‘Alexa, buy a doll’s house’ on air - and Amazon Echos buy them · 2017

Picture Amazon

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A newsreader in San Diego said, ‘Alexa, order me a dollhouse’ on air – while reporting o…

How Amazon’s Alexa accidentally ordered a bunch of dollhouses across San Diego · 2017

It doesn’t take much to order a dollhouse mansion and four pounds of sugar cookies with an Amazon Echo

In an ironic turn of events, Amazon’s voice assistant, Alexa, is turning out to be quite a terrible listener (or perhaps it has some thin…

Amazon Echo device ordered dollhouses being discussed on TV · 2017

It is supposed to make life easier – but owners of the new Amazon Echo have fallen foul of the high-tech gadget's automatic features.

Owners of the device been warned after a number accidentally ordered dollhouses that were being discussed …

Amazon Echos accidentally order dollhouses after hearing US news programme · 2017

ES News email The latest headlines in your inbox ES News email The latest headlines in your inbox Enter your email address Continue Please enter an email address Email address is invalid Fill out this field Email address is invalid You alre…

Amazon Echo's Alexa Went Dollhouse Crazy · 2017

Amazon Echo is a gift that keeps on giving.

Owners complained that their voice-activated devices set off on an inadvertent shopping spree after a California news program triggered the systems to make erroneous purchases, according a local r… · 2017


Children who have access to their parents' credit card may accidentally or intentionally buy stuff online without permission. That's mostly fine, if not an often cutesy mishap, making for some few laughs and an anecdote some years to …

‘Alexa, sort your life out’: when Amazon Echo goes rogue · 2017

Amazon Echo is apparently always ready, always listening and always getting smarter. So goes the spiel about the sleek, black, voice-controlled speaker, Amazon’s bestselling product over Christmas, with millions now sold worldwide. The prob… · 2017

Alexa Went On A Dollhouse Shopping Spree After Hearing “Command” From News Anchor On TV


When a news anchor for CW6 News in San Diego reported about a funny incident about a little girl and an Amazon Echo, little did he know that he wo…

TV news anchor's report accidentally sets off viewers' Amazon's Echo Dots · 2017

Dallas mom Megan Neitzel’s cautionary tale involving her 6-year-old daughter accidentally ordering pricey gifts through “Alexa,” Amazon’s voice-activated Echo Dot, went viral last week as stories about the incident were shared by news organ…

I may have found how Amazon prevents the echo from activating during commercials. · 2017

I noticed that the Amazon commercials usually do not trigger the device, or if they do, she only momentarily wakes before ignoring what is said. I did a little research tonight and found that the Echo, while it’s processing the wake word, s… · 2017


As you probably know by now, when your TV started blaring Google's Super Bowl ad, Google Homes across the nation promptly responded to the actors saying the "OK Google" command. The same happened to several Amazon Echo devices, which …

How to Keep Amazon Echo and Google Home From Responding to Your TV · 2017

Voice assistants such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home are pretty smart, but they’re not yet sharp enough to understand the difference between TV and reality. A Google commercial during yesterday’s Super Bowl prompted Home to play whale n…

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Amazon’s Super Bowl ad will air this Sunday in millions of homes across the country. But no matter how many times Jeff Bezos bewilderedly mutters “Alexa’s lost her voice?,” no Alexa devices should turn on during the commercial, according to…

How Amazon Keeps Your TV From Accidentally Triggering Your Echo · 2018

If you haven't seen it by now, Amazon's Super Bowl LII commercial is fairly clever. Kudos to the company for coming up with a fun way to mash together celebrities and Alexa without it feeling overly cheesy or trying-too-hard. More important…

Amazon reveals secret trick to stop your Alexa waking up during Echo TV ads · 2018

AMAZON has revealed how it stops your Amazon Echo speaker from waking up when the word "Alexa" is used in an official TV ad.

The company uses "acoustic fingerprints" that help your Echo understand that you're being advertised to, rather tha…

Amazon reveals how it stops Alexa responding to its hotword unintentionally · 2018

There probably hasn't been a time that you've consciously been thankful for deep neural networks and machine learning, but that's what Amazon is using to ensure that Alexa doesn't respond to the "Alexa" keyword when you don't want it to.


Hey Alexa, is it true a TV advert made Amazon Echo order cat food? · 2018

An Amazon Echo owner has tried to get a television advertising campaign for the smart speaker banned after the Alexa virtual assistant attempted to order cat food when it heard its name on an ad.

An Amazon TV ad for the Echo Dot, which can …

Amazon Echo Dot ad cleared over cat food order · 2018

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The Amazon Echo Dot TV commercial was cleared by the UK's advertising regulator

A television ad for Amazon's Echo Dot smart speaker that caused a viewer's device to try to order cat food has been c…

Hey Alexa, is it true a TV advert made Amazon Echo order cat food? · 2018

An Amazon Echo owner has tried to get a television advertising campaign for the smart speaker banned after the Alexa virtual assistant attempted to order cat food when it heard its name on an ad.

An Amazon TV ad for the Echo Dot, which can …

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We have in the past seen instances such as the failure of Microsoft bot Tay, when it developed a tendency to come up with racist remarks. Within 24 hours of its existence and interaction with people, it starting sending offensive comments, …


A "variant" is an incident that shares the same causative factors, produces similar harms, and involves the same intelligent systems as a known AI incident. Rather than index variants as entirely separate incidents, we list variations of incidents under the first similar incident submitted to the database. Unlike other submission types to the incident database, variants are not required to have reporting in evidence external to the Incident Database. Learn more from the research paper.

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