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How to prevent Amazon from recording what we say to Alexa

If there is someone who could know you well, that is Alexa. Amazon's voice assistant knows a lot about you, and she knows because you've been telling her about it with every interaction . From asking him to make you the shopping list, to ordering him to play your favorite music; Alexa has been since the beginning storing everything about her in her memory , leaving the door open with welcome lights for companies like Amazon to access your privacy

To give you an idea, by January 2019, The Verge portal revealed that more than 100 million devices with Alexa had been sold by Amazon. Now, try to calculate the amount of information that the American company has been able to collect with its fleet of 100 million Alexas around the world. Exactly; a chilling figure.

According to the specialized website Statista, it is expected that by 2025 approximately 130 million Amazon Echo will have been sold; products that arrive with Alexa as a flagship function (although they are not the only ones compatible). Likewise, in another of The Verge's reports, it was commented that in 2020 a quarter of households in the United States had at least one Alexa device. For this reason, and because they are increasingly present in our lives, it is necessary to protect our privacy from the avid ears of our favorite virtual assistant.

How Alexa works and what data it needs of you

In a nutshell: everything. Alexa knows everything you've told her. This little speaker has been since the beginning listening and storing the commands (and other things) that you say out loud.

In 2016, analyst Tim Moyniham of Wired wrote an extensive analysis about it. In it, he told us everything what Amazon did with the data collected by Alexa; while he took the opportunity to explain to us how many other assistants worked -Google Assistant included-.

It is here that Moyniham explained that these virtual assistants are always listening to us, even when we have not invoked them using the keyword. The reason is quite simple, and it is that in order to listen to the activation commands, the device must be constantly alert. However, Tim Moyniham assures that although these devices usually have an active microphone, the things you say before invoking them are not stored or sent to the companies' servers.

In fact, if the concept of something always listening to you in your house scares you a lot; your best option is a push-button voice assistant. Things like the Amazon Tap, the Alexa remote for Fire TV, or your phone with “always on” mode turned off.

Tim Moyniham, Wired

What it does Amazon with this information

Although it may seem like a very smart and capable device, Alexahas her brain located many miles away. This is one of the reasons why she needs a word to “wake up”. In this way, the Alexa compatible device knows what to listen to and then send to the “brain” located on the servers using an Internet connection.

This audio is sent to Amazon servers, who process the words and formulate a response to deliver to the user; either verbally with Alexa or by executing the specific action.

Going back to the previous topic about Alexa's ability to listen to you even when it hasn't been activated; A former Amazon developer told the US portal The Information that the virtual assistant had the ability to record everything you did even before activating it. To this, Amazon defended itself by ensuring that this data was only shared after activating the assistant using the voice command.

However, analyst Tom Henderson considers in his publication in Network World that many security measures are needed around these virtual assistants. In this way, Henderson believes that the purchase of recordings of this type could become the new digital gold; if they haven't already done so.

How to prevent Alexa from registering our commands (and delete existing ones)

Amazon Echo Dot with Alexa The best thing you can do, for now, is to take matters into your own hands. If you still want to continue using your Alexa as a smart assistant, you can; The best thing is that there are some options to make its use more private and secure.

In addition, Amazon has some options that will allow you to access the voice record; in this way you will be able to listen and delete all the requests you have made to Alexa since the beginning of time.

There are ways to do it from mobile and from the web. The most recommended option is the second, and it is the one we are going to use today, since it is the one that shows you the largest number of privacy options that you can use in your favor.

Enter the Amazon website and log in. Once inside, click on the My Account option. Look for the Manage content and devices section. Go to Manage settings within Alexa Privacy. A new screen will show you some options in a sidebar on the left. Tap Review voice history. This page will give you tools to navigate the recordings Alexa has of you. You can also see the generated transcripts; but there is also a button to play the recordings. At the end of each recording you will see a Delete recording button, which you can use to get rid of them. However, if in Date range you select All history, the Delete all recordings button will be enabled of all history; With this function you will delete everything that Alexa has stored about you. Once you make the changes, the voice data stored by Alexa will be deleted from its memory and from Amazon servers. This is one of the essential security measures that exist in this type of device, since users should have the right to access them.

Now, we will proceed to ask Alexa to stop keeping track of our voice recordings. The option is on this very website, so you won't have to look too far.

Go to Manage your Alexa Data in the left sidebar. Here, you will see some settings for voice recordings. In the section Select how long the recordings will be saved, you will be able to choose the time you want. If you don't want them to be saved at all, just tap Don't save recordings. Amazon will warn you that this could affect voice recognition. Confirm the action and you're done. Likewise, there are some security options within Amazon that will allow you to modify the way in which this data is processed. For example, by accessing the Privacy section of Alexa, and then Manage your Skills permissions, you can manage the way in which this data accesses each of your recordings. Likewise, you can deactivate those functions with which you do not wish to share information.

Finally, turn off the Help improve Alexa feature; this will stop Amazon from analyzing your recordings. The company uses your recordings to improve the recognition system; however, if you want to disable it for more privacy, you can do it without problems.