AN ADVERT for Amazon's Echo speakers which triggered a user's device to order cat food has been cleared by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the UK.
Amazon's current ad campaigns involve a series of vignettes which are then solved with an Alexa request. In many cases, they trigger Alexa devices (it happens a lot), and whilst most of the time they are programmed to recognise them for what they are and ignore them, on this occasion, the complainant has a successful order of Purina cat food.
The user claimed this was "socially irresponsible", but the ASA found that Amazon had made all the necessary arrangements to avoid phantom orders, and even where that failed, the user had the option to cancel.
Additionally, users have the option to set up parental controls and set a purchase PIN (and frankly, if you've not set up the PIN, you deserve everything you get).
If that weren't enough, you can also turn off voice purchasing altogether with a single command.
"We concluded that the ad was not socially irresponsible and did not breach the Code," said the findings.
There were teething problems in the early days of Alexa. Most notably, a little girl ordered a dolls house with Alexa after seeing her parents placing orders. They had not set up a PIN or parental control.
Shortly afterwards, a San Diego news anchor (no, not that one), reporting the story said "I love the little girl saying, 'Alexa order me a dollhouse.'" triggering a large number of complaints of their smart speakers ordering dollhouses.
Not all the triggers have been accidental. The animated sitcom South Park featured an episode centred around voice assistants that was deliberately designed to play havoc with viewers' units.
It's noticeable that more recent adverts have retained US accents from the original US campaign rather than overdubbing to our Limey tones as the old ones did, which will do wonders, as Alexa has had more 'training' on US accents that UK ones. µ
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