Most of the time, when you talk to an Amazon Echo device, only Amazon’s voice-recognition software is listening. But as per a recent, Bloomberg report, a copy of the audio is sent to a human reviewer at one of several Amazon offices around the world. The human listens to the audio clip, transcribes it, and adds annotations to help Amazon’s algorithms get better.
An Amazon spokesman in a statement emailed to Bloomberg said:
“We take the security and privacy of our customers’ personal information seriously. We only annotate an extremely small sample of Alexa voice recordings in order [to] improve the customer experience.”
Bloomberg hints at a significant workforce doing this kind of work. Bloomberg says Amazon has employees listening to audio clips in offices in Boston, Costa Rica, India, and Romania. Employees interpret as many as 1,000 audio clips in a 9-hour shift.
So if you own a smart speaker, beware that your private conversations could be monitored and stored for future. However, it’s relatively easy to adjust the settings to enhance your privacy, to mute the microphone when it’s not being used, and to delete conversations that have already been recorded.
READ INSTRUCTIONS BELOW
1. Amazon Alexa :
- Open the Alexa app on your smartphone and tap the menu button on the top-left of the screen
- Select Settings > Alexa Account > Alexa Privacy > 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
To mute your speaker: The simplest way to control what your smart speaker hears is to mute it when you’re not using it. Of course, the unit won’t respond to voice commands until you turn it back on.
To review or delete your recordings: Amazon stores your recorded conversations in the cloud. You have the option of seeing all of these—the sheer volume of the information might give you pause—and deleting the contents.
- Open the App and select Settings
- Select Alexa Account > Alexa Privacy > Review Voice History. That will show you the recordings, which can be searched for a keyword or sorted by date
- There’s a tab to Delete All Recordings for Today or Delete All History
2. Apple Siri
To keep human employees from listening: Apple does not allow users to control whether information sent back to the company from a HomePod is heard by employees or used for machine learning.
To mute your speaker: The simplest way to control what your smart speaker hears is to mute the device when you’re not using it. Of course, the unit won’t respond to voice commands until you turn it back on.
Apple’s HomePod doesn’t have a physical mute button, but you can mute it with a voice command:
“Hey, Siri, stop listening.”
The speaker will remind you that this command will turn off the mic and that you’ll have to tap the button on the top to turn the device back on. Then, you can say
“Hey, Siri, start listening.”
To review or delete your recordings: Apple doesn’t provide a way to view or delete your HomePod conversations.
3. Google Assistant
To keep human employees from listening:
- Google allows you to opt out of Voice and Audio Activity, where recordings may be sent to Google to improve its speech recognition
- On the Google Home app on your smartphone, go to My Activity
- Tap the three-button icon at the top right and scroll to Activity Controls > Voice & Audio Activity. Now slide the button to off
To mute your speaker: The simplest and most surefire way to maintain control over what your smart speaker hears is to mute your device when you’re not using it. Of course, the unit won’t respond to voice commands until you turn it back on.
The Google Home has a mute button, while the Home Max and Home Mini have a toggle switch on the side. If you have a third-party device that uses Google Assistant, consult your manufacturer’s instructions to find out how to mute your unit.
To review or delete your recordings:
- Google allows you to see the conversations that have been recorded by your smart speaker and delete the contents
- Begin by tapping the circular icon on the lower right of the Google Home app’s screen
- Tap My Activity to see your individual conversations
- The most privacy-friendly option is to delete all your activity with a single command
- Tap the three dot icon and select, “Delete activity by …” You can then select “All Time” and tap “Delete” to eradicate your entire history