Amazon’s Alexa listens to your conversations even when you don’t ask it to

It should be no secret that if you invite a device that records speech into your home, it's going to record your speech…. even if you're not explicitly talking to it.

As recently as this week, an ex-Amazon boss admitted that he turns his Alexa devices to protect his privacy.

Ex-Amazon employee Robert Frederick told the BBC in a Panorama special called ‘Amazon: What They Know About Us’ that he turns off Amazon's Alexa "whenever [he] wants to have a private moment."

Alexa's system operates on 'wake words' – phrases or words that will trigger the device to become active and start recording you, even without your explicit content, because it thinks it picks up on you saying its name.

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Some of your conversations will then be sent to Amazon employees – known as 'graders' – who listen to and transcribe the audio.

It's been reported that Amazon has had access to recordings of users' sexual activities, family rows and discussions about financial details.

Amazon notes that it collects voice data to aid with Alexa's processing and interaction capabilities.

“Voice recordings are used to improve the accuracy of your interactions with Alexa," Amazon has stated. "Deleting voice recordings associated with your account may degrade your experience.”

Even so, if you're feeling a little uneasy about having an Alexa device in your house, we don't blame you.

Luckily for anyone that's a regular user of the Amazon app, there’s an easy way to listen to the recordings of your conversations Alexa has saved, and to delete them for good.

How to delete Alexa recordings

  1. Open the Alexa app
  2. Go to the Settings menu
  3. Select Settings
  4. Select Alexa Privacy , and browse entries or select a date range you'd like to investigate
  5. Tap an entry you want to play back, and then click Play
  6. To delete a recording, tick the check box next to it, and select ‘Delete Selected Recordings’

By heading to Amazon'sAlexa Privacy Settingspage in your browser, you can also change your settings.

How to turn off Human Review

You are able to opt out of having your conversations and data sent to human workers that review your audio and transcribe it.

Here's how to opt out:

  1. Open the Alexa app on your phone, and navigate to Settings.
  2. Head to Alexa Privacy, select " Manage How Your Data Improves Alexa ".
  3. Turn the switch off.

It should be noted that Amazon warns you that you may not be able to get the most optimised new features if you turn this option off.

"With this setting on, your voice recordings may be used to develop new features and manually reviewed to help improve our services" the page states. "Only an extremely small fraction of voice recordings are manually reviewed."

Still, if you value your privacy, we recommend you turn this feature off as soon as possible.

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