Yes, without any doubt, Alexa listens to everything you say. However, this can be reversed in the settings. After it has been highlighted that Alexa devices record all the conversations and send the recorded conversations to a remote server, Amazon has been strict on user privacy.
Even when you are not talking to Alexa, Alexa is always listening. For Alexa to wake up when asked to, she listens to everything if the microphone is on. She is always in search of the wake word.
In this process, is Alexa spying on you? Let’s find out.
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What is keyword spotting?
What’s exactly being termed as spying is not actually spying but ‘keyword spotting.’ Amazon, in its clarification, has termed it ‘keyword spotting.’ The built-in technology in Echo devices allows one to search for acoustic patterns like the wake word.
As the Echo device finds the wake word in people’s conversations, it sends an immediate message to the Amazon cloud server. Whereby cloud servers with unique capabilities confirm if the wake word was actually spoken. For this reason, it lights up even when someone is talking about Alexa and not to Alexa.
In their own words, “Echo devices use built-in technology that matches what you say to the acoustic patterns of the wake word. This technology is called “keyword spotting.” When the device detects the wake word, it streams the audio to Amazon’s secure cloud, where its more powerful processing capabilities try to confirm if the wake word was indeed spoken.”
How do you know when Alexa is listening?
Even for certain specific reasons, Alexa is always listening. However, you can stop Alexa from always listening. All you have to do is turn off the microphone on your Echo device.
This will stop the Echo device from listening to you. It will stop Alexa from keyword spotting. It’s nearly the same as a powered-off Echo device. You can turn the microphone on when you want to communicate with Alexa and begin your commands.
When you turn the microphone off, a red light will turn on, indicating that the microphone is off. This also indicates that the power is provided to the microphone or the red light but not to both simultaneously. The red light also reminds you that you turned off Alexa’s microphone some time back.
But what about the Echo devices with a screen like Echo Show devices?
You can also turn off the microphone and camera to ensure privacy. On all Echo Show variants, you can find the mic/camera on/off button on the top of the device.
It’s usually the first button on the control panel. Pressing it will turn the microphone off, and Alexa can no longer listen. Similarly, it will also turn the camera if it’s in a workable situation.
If you still feel as Echo Show camera is still keeping an eye on you, the latest Echo Show versions have a camera shutter on/off like in Echo Show 10. It is placed on the top of the device as well. The camera shutter off means the camera can no longer see anything, even if the camera is opened.
These are all the latest additions to the privacy of Amazon smart devices.
Does Alexa records conversation?
Not only Alexa listens, but it also records your conversations. However, this, too, can be reverted. If you keep the microphone off, it can no longer hear or record conversations.
But what about the conversations done before you turned the microphone off? Can you delete them? Yes, Alexa listens and records the conversation. But the user can access these recordings and even delete them.
You can check out the voice history in the Alexa app, which stores all the voice records. Remember, it only records conversations after the wake word is detected. But this means an accidental wake word can activate Alexa and record the conversation afterward.
No matter what, all sorts of recordings can be deleted. For this, open your Alexa app. Go to Settings> Alexa Privacy> Review Voice History.
It will show all the voice conversations you can listen to and delete. Users have three ways in which they can handle their voice history.
- These recordings are automatically deleted after 3 to 18 months.
- You can also delete them all at once manually
- Select an option where your recordings will not be saved in the first place.
You can also manage these recordings to voice commands. To delete them, you can give commands like, “Alexa, delete everything I said today,” or “Alexa, delete what I just said.”
Will this stop Alexa from showing targeted ads? What about Alexa showing targeted ads based on the conversations she hears?
Does Alexa show target ads after listening to your conversations?
Well, there is no direct answer. This much is true that Amazon won’t show targeted ads just based on the conversations. However, this doesn’t mean the Alexa setup isn’t tailored for the same.
In fact, a report went live in 2023 only that says that ad targeting is part of the Amazon smart speaker ecosystem. This means it listens, records conversations, sends data to remote cloud servers and uses such data to show personalized ads.
Another report says that it also sells such interactions to other advertising agencies.
However, the conversation being talked about here is not your everyday conversation, but only the conversation recorded after a wake word is being said.
However, Amazon also mentions that users can review their privacy settings on the Alexa app anytime. To do so, users can command, “Alexa, how do I review my privacy settings?” and Alexa will send a direct link to the Alexa app.
Amazon also gives the freedom to choose privacy options to provide peace of mind to the users. After the above allegations regarding Alexa’s privacy policies, Amazon has been more committed towards transparency.