Digital assistant devices, like Amazon’s Echo, can be a useful household tool when all you have to do is command it with your voice, but is Alexa listening to everything you say?

A recent Bloomberg report revealed that Amazon employees listen to voice recordings captured by the Echo speaker in order to calibrate and improve Alexa’s programming. The news of course raised privacy concerns for customers who would prefer not to have their conversations recorded.

photo: Courtesy of Amazon

The truth is, however, as an Amazon spokesperson explained to TODAY, that the Echo only records world spoken when Alexa is issued a verbal command. In other words, unless you use your wake word, like “Alexa” or “Echo” the Echo will not record or send any audio or data to the cloud. Only a small amount of recorded data is actually reviewed by employees and there is never any information linking the recording the identity of the customers, an Amazon spokesperson explained to Bloomberg.

“Privacy and security are first and foremost super important to us,” Amazon vice president of Alexa experience Toni Reid told NBC News in November. “We take it very seriously. We design it into our products from the beginning.”

If the idea of being recorded regardless makes you uncomfortable, there is an easy fix to disable the function. Simply follow these steps:

  • Open the Alexa app on your phone.
  • Tap the menu button on the top left of the screen.
  • Select “Alexa Account.”
  • Choose “Alexa Privacy.”
  • Select “Manage how your data improves Alexa.”
  • Turn off the button next to “Help Develop New Features.”
  • Turn off the button next to your name under “Use Messages to Improve Transcriptions.”

—Shahrzad Warkentin



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