Alexa Privacy Concerns
Amazon Echo devices are extremely popular because they add a lot of convenience to our life. These smart speakers are making their way into our family rooms, kitchens and even our bedrooms. As such, there is a legitimate case for Alexa privacy concerns.
I love the Alexa devices and have them throughout my home. Amazon Echo devices are safe, but we need to understand what is recorded or tracked and how we manage that data.
Here are some common questions around Alexa recordings and privacy.
Is Alexa Always Listening?
Unless muted, the Alexa microphone is always listening for the “wake word”. The wake word is either Alexa, Amazon, or Computer depending on your settings. Alexa does not record your conversation until it hears the wake word.
Does Amazon Listen to My Alexa Recordings?
Depending on your privacy settings, Amazon employees can listen to your recorded snippets. Amazon uses this information to improve voice recognition and services. However, Amazon states that only a fraction of recordings are listened to by an actual person.
What Else Does Alexa Record?
Most people understand that Alexa records their voice snippets when it is activated. However, you should know that Alexa can also track other events. This includes Smart Alerts such as fire alarms and Smart Home device history such as when a door was opened.
How do I set Alexa Privacy Settings?
Now that we know what Alexa can record or track, let’s explore how to manage your Alexa Privacy Settings. The privacy settings below work on all Alexa devices. This includes the Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, and Echo Spot. For example, there are not different Echo Dot privacy settings and Echo Show privacy settings.
The Echo privacy settings are all managed in the Alexa app. Navigate to the Privacy Settings in the Alexa app by following these steps.
1 – Open the “hamburger” menu in the Alexa App
The hamburger menu is the three lines found in the top left corner of the app.
2 – Click “Settings” in the Alexa menu
Settings is found at the bottom of the list.
3 – Select “Alexa Privacy”
This section will take you to a list of five areas where you can manage your Echo privacy settings.
Amazon Echo – Alexa Privacy Settings
There are five areas to review and manage your Alexa Privacy Settings. In this area, we will walk through each area and how you can use it.
Item 5 is now named: “Manage Your Alexa Data” and has options to automatically delete voice recordings.
1 – Review Voice History
This area allows you to review and delete all voice recordings from your Echo devices. You can also enable deletion by voice so you can just tell Alexa to forget what you said.
Review and Delete Alexa Voice Recording History
Select the date range in the drop down menu to review all recordings from you Echo devices during that time. You can filter by: today, yesterday, this week, this month, all history or a custom date range.
The app also allows you to play back any recordings in the list by selecting the play button. You can delete each recording individually or all recordings in the filter. Just select “Delete All Recordings for [time period]”.
Enable Deletion by Voice
When enabled, you to delete your voice recordings with a voice command. I recommend turning this on so you can easily ask Alexa to delete a recording. Once it is turned on, just use these commands to delete a recording:
- Alexa, delete what I just said
- Alexa, delete everything I said today
2 – Review Smart Alert History
What are Alexa Smart Alerts?
Smart Alerts are special events that you have requested Alexa to track. Currently, smart alerts include CO2 and Smoke Alarms or glass break events. These are events are detected by Alexa Guard when activated. You can view and delete any Alexa Smart Alerts that have been recorded by your Echo devices. Use the drop down menu to filter by date. Then select “Delete All Recordings for [time period]” to remove them from history.
3 – Manage Smart Home Devices History
If you have any smart home devices linked to your Amazon Echo, then Alexa will track activity related to those devices. For example, Alexa will record when a door was opened or when a light was turned off.
Amazon uses this information to help you manage your smart home and to make suggestions based on normal activity. Remove this information by pressing the “Delete All Smart Home Devices History” button.
4 – Manage Skills Permissions
When you enable skills on Alexa, you typically have to give the skills access to certain information. This area of the Alexa Privacy settings allows you to see what Alexa skills have access to specific permissions. Permissions used include (more critical in bold):
- Access Device Street Address
- Access Device Country and Postal Code
- View Alexa Lists
- Modify Alexa Lists
- Use Amazon Pay
- Access Full Name
- Access First Name
- Access Mobile Number
- Access Email Address
You can see what apps have access to this information by selecting it. Additionally, you can disable or enable the access to the skill by using the toggle button seen below.
5 – Manage Your Alexa Data
There are two sections in this menu: Manage Your Voice Recordings and Help Improve Alexa.
Manage Your Voice Recordings
Manage your voice recordings allows you to automatically delete your voice recordings after 3 months, 18 months or until you manually delete them.
Previously, Amazon only allowed you to delete voice history manually so this is a good addition to the Alexa security options. I personally select to delete all voice recordings automatically after 3 months.
Help Improve Alexa
This is a nice way of Amazon asking to use your voice recordings to improve it’s services. There are two areas where you can opt-in to manual recording reviews of your data.
- Voice Recordings – Every command recorded after Alexa hears the wake word.
- Messages – Text and other messages sent from your Echo devices.
If you allow these settings, then there is a chance that a real person will review your voice recordings. This allows Amazon to improve the accuracy of voice recognition and other services. There is a very minimal chance that your data will ever be reviewed. However, it won’t limit your Alexa capabilities if you un-check these options.
Other Alexa Settings
Security and Privacy settings are the most important items to consider when setting up your Echo devices. Here are some other settings you should configure for a great experience with Alexa.
- Enable Alexa Brief Mode – Alexa will speak less and stop responding “OK” to every smart home command. A must for my home!
P.S. Please leave a comment below to ask a question, help someone else or share your experiences. Thanks!