Alexa is gifted with a full range of talents, but a recent update for those in the UK could leave you with a nasty surprise.
On 20 October, Amazon turned on the shopping option for Amazon Echo. Voice purchasing means that you can ask Alexa to buy you things. Alexa will search Amazon, return some results and give you the option to buy.
It does this using the 1-click option from your Amazon account, you simply have to use your voice to search for things and confirm you want to buy it, it's then charged to your account and delivered to your default address.
It sounds great: "Alexa, buy some toilet paper", "Alexa, I want to buy The Force Awakens on Blu-ray".
You can see where this is going: "Alexa, buy a case of wine", "Alexa, buy a 12-inch kitchen knife", "Alexa, buy a 50-inch TV", "Alexa, buy a Lego Death Star", "Alexa, buy five PlayStation 4s".
In each case you're presented with whatever Alexa finds on Amazon, before being offered the choice to buy it. By default, all you'd have to say is "yes".
Anyone who owns an Echo or Dot will know that Alexa will understand what your children say too, meaning that you could find yourself with a whole range of things on your doorstep that they manage to order, quickly, easily and just using voice.
It's not just kids, it's anyone who comes into your house or anything that says "Alexa, buy…." For those who have seen the TV advert that is currently running, you'll know that the Amazon Echo responds to the voice in the advert, adding tennis balls and dog biscuits to your own shopping list.
Of course, once an order is successfully placed, you'll be sent an email, and the Alexa app keeps a record of everything it hears and those shopping requests, but there's still huge potential for kids to go and buy whatever they want, just to see what happens.
How to secure your Amazon Echo voice purchasing
To make sure that your Amazon Echo won't just errantly order anything it can find on Amazon from a voice prompt, just follow these simple steps:
- Open the Alexa app
- Hit the left-hand menu button to open up the menu choices
- Head into Settings, scroll down the list to voice purchasing
- Set a voice PIN
This will mean that when you go to buy something, you'll then have to vocally provide that PIN as an added security measure. This might stop strangers being able to buy things, but you'll have to make sure your kids are out of earshot too, or you'll still be getting that Lego Death Star.
You also have the option to turn off the voice purchasing feature entirely in the same section of the app, which for families might just be the easiest option.
Alexa will add things to your shopping list
There's also another neat trick that Alexa offers: if it can't find what you're looking for, it will automatically add that item to your shopping list.
Unfortunately you can fall foul of pranksters here too, because it's very easy to add, let's say, "intimate items" to your shopping list. When you ask Alexa what's on your list, you'll get dog biscuits and tennis balls (of course) and a whole list of items that your immature friends have decided you might also need.