As we all know by now, your Echo device stores voice recordings and Amazon employees can listen to your conversations. Alexa must listen at all times in order to recognize the wake command.
According to Amazon, the Echo only starts recording when you say a command to Alexa. The transcripts and voice recordings are uploaded to Amazon’s servers for processing. Amazon reviews these recordings to “improve the voice assistant”.
If you don’t want your Echo listening for the wake word at all times, press the microphone’s mute button to turn the mic off. You can also adjust your privacy settings and chose “Don’t Save Recordings” as well as turn “Use of Voice Recordings” to off under Help Improve Alexa setting.
As far as the history your Alexa is storing, through the privacy settings you can “Review Voice History” and manually scroll down to “All History” and select “Delete All My Recordings”. You can also delete audio transcripts of your Alexa recordings after confidential company meetings with a simple, “Alexa delete everything I said today” or “Alexa delete everything I’ve ever said”.
If you allow Alexa to access your bank account information or if it is connected to your home security system, make absolutely certain that a personal code is required. Did you know intruders can access your smart home devices from outside if it's placed too close to a window? Your PIN code provides an extra layer of security if someone from outside your home was able to gain access to your Alexa.
You may also choose to turn on Alexa Guard, which allows you to tell Alexa “You’re Leaving” at which time your unit is listening for signs of a break-in or anything suspicious. If any unusual activity is detected, it will send you an alert. Upon arriving back home, you simply tell Alexa “I’m Home” and this service is suspended.
Placing Alexa in close proximity of a television may also risk your privacy. Commercials that say the word Alexa or anything that sounds close can activate your Echo and immediately start recording.
Amazon has improved privacy settings and created options for you to manage what is and is not stored on your device. However, make no mistake, Alexa is ALWAYS listening and how much of that is constantly uploaded to their servers and being stored, reviewed or otherwise utilized, regardless of your personal settings, is anyone's guess.
I can appreciate features that may make daily life faster, easier, simpler but I am doing just fine without one. If you are an Alexa user, do yourself a favor and review your privacy settings.
*This nonfiction piece is based on observation and research. I do not claim to be an expert in areas of public health, academia, mental health, or science, nor am I providing professional medical or legal advice. Opinions shared are expressly drawn from personal experience.