How to use Amazon Echo privacy features | #android | #security

Smart speakers like the Amazon Echo have become commonplace in the modern age. Still, it wasn’t long ago that people had concerns regarding their privacy when an always-listening device was sitting in their room. Some may still have those concerns, so it’s important to know that Amazon has a robust system for monitoring what your Echo devices can and can’t do.

If you’re concerned about Alexa privacy, take the time to look through these privacy settings.


Find the Alexa privacy settings

Head to the Manage Your Content and Devices page after signing in to your Amazon account.

From that page, click Privacy Settings on the toolbar. Next, select Manage Settings under Alexa Privacy. This is where you can view your Alexa data.

Review Alexa voice history

When you select Review Voice History, you’ll see all the voice recordings made from recent commands you’ve used with Alexa. The queries shown will be from any Amazon Echo, Android, or iPhone using the Alexa app, Kindle Fire, or Alexa-enabled TV connected to your Alexa account.

By default, it shows recordings from all devices during the last day, but this can be filtered by time frame or device. Once a time frame has been chosen, you can delete voice recordings from that period.

Each query has an arrow in the upper-right corner, which provides more options when clicked. Here you can listen to the recording of your voice, delete it, or provide a thumbs up or down based on whether Alexa did what you wanted.

If you live in the U.S., Amazon Echo devices can listen for the sound of breaking glass or a smoke/CO alarm going off and then alert you about the noise. The recordings of what it thinks these sounds are will be listed here, and they can be filtered and deleted in the same way as voice recordings. Likewise, you can expand each one and listen to the recording before deleting it or providing feedback.

You can change how recordings are stored if you click the Manage Your Alexa Data menu found on the left side. You can decide how long Amazon keeps your voice recordings and detected sounds. The default is Save recordings until I delete them, which means Amazon keeps them forever unless you come here and remove them yourself. Select Choose how long to save history if you want to delete these recordings every three or 18 months automatically.

Another option you might want to turn on is Enable deletion by voice. Signing in to your Amazon account and navigating to this page is a chore if you only want to delete one recording. However, with this turned on, just say, “Alexa, delete what I just said,” or “Alexa, delete everything I said today,” to delete the recordings from the Echo device.

Manage smart home activity

When you choose Review Smart Home Device History from the side menu, you’ll see a log of when your lights are switched on and off, when your connected home security devices are triggered, and other information relating to connected smart home devices.

This page lacks some useful features. The screenshot shows when the lights were switched on or off, but it doesn’t show which device it was or who in the family group did it.

Selecting Manage my smart home data, found at the top of the Review Smart Home Device History list, lets you change how this history is stored. Like everything else, the default has these records stay around permanently unless you delete them yourself. Selecting Choose how long to save history lets you set up auto-deletion, which can be done every three or 18 months.

Underneath that is the option to perform a one-off deletion of your smart device history, starting again from scratch. Next, you can have Amazon email you a complete history, which will look like our first screenshot but in the form of an email.

Manage Alexa skill permissions

Like the apps on your smartphone, Alexa skills require certain permissions to function correctly. It’s a good idea to check these permissions every so often, ensuring your skills use only the permissions they need and denying access to skills you’ve stopped using.

When you choose Manage Skill Permissions from the left side of the screen, you’ll see all the permissions skills are allowed to access. Clicking the arrow in the upper-right corner of a permission will expand it, showing which skills are using it. If you want to revoke a permission, click the toggle to the right of the skill.

Manage whether an Alexa device can learn from your data

The data Alexa collects, such as your voice recordings, is meant to be used by the virtual assistant to learn how to better itself. If that’s not something you want, it can be easily disabled. Note that Amazon says, “If you turn this off, voice recognition and new features may not work well for you.” We’re not sure how true that is, but remember this if Alexa becomes more buggy after disabling this toggle.

From the left side, click Manage Your Alexa Data and scroll to the bottom of the page. Here you can disable Amazon’s use of voice recordings, so Alexa will no longer study them to improve, and no human will ever review them. Further down, you can prevent Amazon from transcribing messages you send to other people in your family group. Each person has their own toggle.

Feel secure around your Alexa devices

Going through all these settings might seem daunting, but it’s good to familiarize yourself with them. Then you can ensure everything is configured to your liking. To Amazon’s credit, the Alexa privacy settings are robust and allow for a lot of customization.

Whether you’re new to the voice assistant or have been using it for years, now is an excellent time to expand your lineup of devices. If you like to video chat with family or get help in the kitchen, add an Amazon Echo Show to your setup. You’ll find several Echo smart displays, and one is sure to fit your needs.

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