Is your Echo spying on you?

Ludovic Bertron / Flickr

Alexa is the newest member of the household and yes she is attentive and listening to you carefully. In fact, she is recording everything almost everything you say and storing it on Amazon servers.

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Does that make you uncomfortable?

If it doesn’t, it should. While Amazon has a reputation for being a pro-customer company with a secure platform who will guard your information, that doesn’t mean they won’t yield to pressure if enough of it is applied. Such was the case of a murder trial in which investigators demanded audio evidence from the Echo “listening” to the crime take place. Ultimately, Amazon caved – Why risk themselves for one of their millions of customers?

There are a lot of questions out there around this topic. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Amazon Eco eavesdropping:

Is Amazon Echo listening all the time?

Not all the time, but the moment your personal assistant hears the ‘wake word’ ‘Alexa’ she is all ears. Imagine a scenario when you are discussing a new investment opportunity with your wife, and suddenly you say, “Alexa lower the AC speed.” Your command makes her active, and after that, she not only lowers down the AC but begins recording the whole conversation without you being remotely aware of such a thing happening.

How about turning the microphone off?

Yes, you can. There is a button on the top of the speaker. However, if you do so Alexa will stop taking any voice commands whatsoever. And you will need to use remote for controlling your personal assistant. Though, people who are extremely wary about their information being stored might use this option. But, I feel that way all the usability, efficiency and fun quotient behind Amazon Echo will be diluted.

What are the ways to keep a better check on Amazon Echo?

All you need to do is switch on a couple of optional buttons in your personal assistant, and you are good to go:

1)   Activate the optional “wake up sound.” It is a short beep. Every time Alexa begins recording audio it will give the beep sound first.

2)   “End of request” tone can also be activated, so you know exactly when Alexa is done with processing your request.

Does it store the information I share?

Yes, it does. Everything that Alexa hears is duly recorded and stored on Amazon servers.

How to delete Amazon Echo history?

All you need to do is log into Amazon.com go to My Account > Manage your Content and Device page and delete all the voice recordings. More to the point, you can also do it via the phone app. Open the left navigation panel of the app. Go to Settings > History and delete the call recording. One can choose to remove a specific audio stream or else the whole history.

What will Amazon do with the stored information?

Amazon uses this data for creating a robust algorithm that will eventually help them in extending the users a more personalized service. Rest assured, this process is automated – They don’t have people listening to your recordings or anything. If you delete the whole history of audio recordings, then it will become difficult for Amazon to extend tailored services to you. That may be of less significance to some people concerned about their privacy however.

My advice to you is:

No one cares what you’re talking about in the presence of your Echo; that is until you are caught committing a crime around one. Then they care, a lot.

 

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