Alexa is the smart assistant included in all the Amazon Echo products and some of the Amazon tap speakers. Alexa is a voice-activated assistant that responds to voice triggers with information or program actions. The technology is impressive and simplifies getting quick bits of information such as weather or traffic reports. Alexa can also help create reminders, form lists, and schedule events on your electronic calendar. Alexa is quickly becoming a staple in many homes, which has people wondering, is Alexa spying on them?
Is Alexa Secretly Spying on Your Conversations?
Many people who own Amazon Echo devices are curious about if Alexa is actually spying on them. The truth is it depends on what you consider spying. If Alexa spying on you means that Alexas is always listening, then it is a spy in your home. To function properly Alexa devices must listen for the "wake word" to start providing its services. Most people wondering about spying are more concerned if other people can use the device to listen or if recordings of what you say are stored. In those instances, things become a bit murkier.
If you're wondering, "Can Alexa record conversations?"; she can. All Amazon Echo devices and other products with Alexa record phrases spoken after the "wake word". For most products, that means once you say "Alexa," whatever you say after is recorded as well. That also means if you say something close to Alexa in conversation, part of your conversation may be recorded.
The devices are not supposed to record what you say when no wake word has been spoken though. If you're concerned about the information being recorded, you can view it under your Voice History. This information is available under Alexa Privacy - Settings - Review Voice History - All Recordings. If you visit that section within the Alexa app, you can see what's being recorded by the devices on your account.
Does Alexa Invade Your Privacy by Constantly Listening?
Does Alexa spy on you because the device listens to everything you say? Alexa devices are continually listening to you, and any recordings made by your device are no longer private. Some Amazon employees are tasked with listening to Amazon Echo recordings to improve voice recognition and offer more effective answers to users. When you use an Amazon Echo device, you're giving Amazon permission to record your commands and share them with employees whenever they deem necessary.
This information is not made publicly available, and Alexa doesn't record long conversations normally, but there are still privacy concerns that come along with the Alexa products.
Is Alexa Crossing Ethical Boundaries in Terms of Privacy?
When you choose to use an Amazon Echo device or even the Alexa app, you're agreeing to provide access to your voice data to Amazon and the technology behind Alexa. This means you agree to have snippets of your conversations heard, and most don't believe that crosses any ethical boundaries.
While some people are alarmed to learn that Alexa devices are recording pieces of their conversations, there is no data indicating that the data is being resold or misused in any way. The Alexa app gives its users access to all the recordings it captures and enables them to erase any they like. The device also allows users to forbid recordings from being taken.
By providing these controls and safety features, Amazon is avoiding overstepping any privacy boundaries that some people would say the company is crossing. If you purchase an Amazon Echo, you are agreeing to be heard by Amazon. If there are times when you don't want to be heard, you can turn off the device or mute its microphone. Learning how to operate the device and stop it from listening should be something you consider if you're worried about what it will hear.
Until Amazon begins recording everything, or the company hides harmful ways it's using collected voice data, the company hasn't crossed ethical privacy boundaries. That doesn't mean that you want your conversations to be recorded, though. If you're concerned about the privacy in your home and you have an Echo device, you should take steps to protect yourself to prevent cyberstalking and to avoid sharing data you don't want shared.
What Should You Do To Protect Your Privacy?
If you want to protect your privacy while still having convenient Echo devices in your life, you can take steps to protect your privacy further. To start off with, you should set up a VPN and ensure all your internet data is traveling through the VPN at all times. When you do this you make your home more difficult to hack into. You'll prevent most hackers from accessing and spying on your Alexa devices.
Once you have a VPN, you should start regularly deleting your voice recordings via the Alexa app. You cannot stop the recordings from occurring, but you can take them out of storage so they aren't available forever for others to access and steal.
You should also consider shutting off the Drop-in feature on your Echo devices. Drop-In is a feature that enables other Alexa devices to listen and look through your device. Users must request permission to Drop-in for the first time, but once they are granted permission, they are free to drop-in whenever they want. Family members, ex-spouses, and other individuals use this feature to spy on one another. By opening your Alexa app and going to Devices - Echo & Alexa - Communications - Drop In, you can turn the feature off and prevent others from spying on you. Taking these simple steps will help protect you from most privacy risks that come from owning Echo devices. If you still aren't comfortable with the risk, you can power them down whenever you aren't using them or remove Echo products from your home.
Learn to Control the Devices You Use
Choosing to purchase Amazon Echo devices forces you to sacrifice a bit of your privacy. You will have to resign yourself to the fact that some audio in your home will be recorded. The data shouldn't be misused, though; you have some control over when your Echo can listen to you and what happens to your voice data once it's captured. Use the information to protect your data and your privacy.