No matter the numerous benefits of smart speakers, the worries about privacy remain for some users. We can completely understand these concerns, Alexa is, after all, listening to us all the time, waiting for the “Alexa…” activation word. Are we completely sure we know exactly what Alexa hears and records?
If you are worried about privacy when using Alexa, there are several things you can do increase your privacy. Let’s take a look at every Alexa privacy setting, and how to change them.
Review Your Alexa Voice History
Your Voice History is a complete record of every voice command you have spoken to Alexa, both commands that Alexa understood and answered, and partial or incomplete commands. It even records when the voice command could not be understood (although it just shows “Audio could not be understood” rather than the misunderstood command).
You can access the Alexa Voice History in More > Settings > Alexa Privacy. To change the history display settings, tap the dropdown menu and filter by date and/or device.
Delete Alexa Voice History
When reviewing your Alexa Voice History, you have the option to delete any single voice command shown in the list. Simply tap the arrow next to the command, and then tap “Delete Recording”.
When viewing the history by date range, you will also see the option to “Delete all recordings from last 7 days” (or 30 days, etc). You can further refine which recordings are deleted by changing the device filter.
Tip: When viewing your voice history, as well as being able to delete individual recordings, you can also give them a thumbs up or thumbs down. This tells Alexa that the command or request was answered or actioned correctly or incorrectly, and helps to improve future responses from Alexa.
You can also use voice commands to tell Alexa to delete voice recordings. To delete what you just said, say:
Alexa, delete what I just said
To delete your voice history for a longer period, say (for example):
Alexa, Delete what I said this week
To delete your entire voice history, say:
Alexa, delete everything I have ever said
(If these commands do not work, head into the privacy settings in the Alexa app, tap Manage your Alexa data and make sure Enable deletion by voice is switched on. )
Choose How Long Recordings are Saved
If you think remembering to manually delete your voice history will be a problem, you can change how long Alexa store the recording for. Open the Alexa app and tap More > Settings >Alexa Privacy. Tap Manage Your Alexa Data and then scroll to Choose how long to save recordings.
Here, you can choose:
- Save recordings until I delete them
- Save recordings for 18 months
- Save recordings for 3 months
- Don’t save recordings
Choosing any of these options will automatically delete the recordings that are older than those within the time period you choose.
Amazon says that choosing Don’t save recordings can affect how well Alexa is able to react to your commands and questions in the future, so it is up to you to decide if the potential privacy boost is worth the potential usability reduction.
Managing Alexa Skill Permissions
Whenever you add a new Skill to Alexa, it is possible that it will ask for permissions to access features of your Phone. This could be locations services, Alexa lists, email addresses or even Amazon Pay. You can easily check which permissions you have granted to Skills. In the Alexa app, go to More > Settings > Alexa Privacy > Manage Skill Permissions.
You will see a list of different permissions (e.g. “Access to location services” or “Access device street address” and by tapping the small arrows, you can see which skills currently have those permissions.
If you want to revoke a permission to a skill, you can simply use the slider to do so. Be aware that revoking permissions will probably mean you can no longer use all or part of that skill.
Stop Alexa Using Your Voice Recordings to Improve Services
In the Manage your Alexa data section of the Alexa Privacy settings is a section called “Help improve Alexa”. This lets you know that there is a chance that some of your voice recordings could randomly be used to help improve various features and services for all users.
If you prefer not to allow Amazon to use your voice recordings in this way, you can use the slider to disable the permission (by default, it is enabled).
How to Mute Alexa
Every currently available Amazon Echo speaker has a button on it to mute Alexa by disabling power to the microphones. The button is easily identifiable as it has an icon of a speaker with a line through it. When you press the button, the Alexa status light will turn red.
Delete Smart Home Device History
If you have any Smart Home devices (smart lightbulbs, plugs, thermostats, etc.,) and control them through Alexa, there will be an additional history saved. This will show data such as which devices are currently connected, switched on, or being used.
You can delete this history easily. In the Alexa app, tap More > Settings > Alexa Privacy. Go into the Manage Smart Home Device History. If any history is shown, you can tap Delete Smart Home Devices History.