How to manage your Alexa privacy settings


You don’t have to look very far to find nightmare stories of Amazon Echo and Alexa devices violating privacy and recording what they shouldn’t. In the worst cases, human screeners even overheard conversations.

Amazon says it uses the data it collects to improve the service, but that probably doesn’t make you feel any better. Luckily, you can manage your Alexa privacy settings to take back control. Here’s what you need to know. As always, for real protection, we also recommend that any privacy-conscious buyer use a VPN to protect their data wherever possible. See the attached guide for a list of the best VPNs we’ve tested.

Find your privacy settings

Alexa privacy settings are available through a web browser and the Alexa app (Settings, Alexa Privacy). I find it easiest to use the web browser version, although it’s a bit tricky to get to the setting. Open a browser and go to Amazon, hover over the Accounts & Lists menu (top left) and select Manage your content and devices. Now click on Privacy Settings in the third menu area from the top and select Alexa Privacy.

See what Alexa is recording

Click Review Voice History, then use the filters to choose which (or all) devices you want to review recordings from, e.g. B. your Echo Show 10, and the review period: Today, Yesterday, Last 7 days, Last 30 days, All history or Habit. You’ll be quite surprised at how far back recordings can go: I’ve had a few from more than two years ago.

You can scroll through the list to see what Alexa has recorded. Use your browser’s search function (CTRL+F or APPLE+F) to search the list for words you may not want Alexa to capture, such as B. “Doctor” or “Appointment”.

In the list, you may see some entries that say “Audio wasn’t intended for Alexa”. These are instances where Alexa thought she heard the trigger word and started recording the audio.

For an entry, you can click the down arrow and then click the play button to check the recorded audio. It’s usually just a short burst of sound. Click Delete recording to remove this recording forever.

At the top of the list there is an option to clear everything in the current list. To delete all recordings forever, select All history and then Delete all my recordings.

Alexa checks the speech history

Manage your voice recordings

It’s too annoying to have to remember to delete your voice recordings, but Amazon provides the tools you need to manage how and when recordings are deleted. Click Manage your Alexa data. The first option above is Voice Recordings.

Leave Enable voice erasing checked. On any Alexa device, you can say, “Alexa, delete what I just said” or “Alexa, delete everything I said today.” You can even tell Alexa to erase everything. You’ll get a warning that Alexa may have trouble understanding you if you erase everything.

Alexa manages the voice recording settings

Select the Choose how long to keep recordings option to customize how long recordings are kept. The default is to keep recordings until I delete them, but you can choose 18 months, three months, or no recordings at all. There’s a big warning here too, telling you that not saving recordings can cause problems. If you don’t save voice recordings, Alexa will also delete voice profiles that give you personalized information upon request. We choose the three-month option as a good compromise.

Alexa sets how long recordings should be saved

Manage history of smart home devices

Alexa also stores information about how your smart devices have been used. The data is intended to help Alexa understand how people use smart devices. You can click Check the history of smart home devices to view the last 30 days of control.

The option to delete all history once will delete everything. Before you do that, you might want to click Email Full History, which sends you everything Alexa knows about your smart home usage, plus some insights.

Finally, you can set how long Amazon stores data. Click Choose how long to keep history, and then select the option you want. There is no option not to save history at all, so 3 months is the minimum option.

Alexa manages the history of smart home devices

Manage the history of detected sounds

In the US, but not the UK, Alexa Guard can be used to watch out for broken glass or alarms. You don’t have history in the UK, but the feature may be enabled in the future. Here you can choose how long the history should be saved, but at least three months.

Manage the history of sounds recognized by Alexa

Manage how Alexa uses your data

The final privacy section is Help make Alexa better. These are settings that allow Amazon to use your data to improve its service, including manual verification (Amazon says only “an extremely small portion of voice recordings are manually verified”). Disable the slider to prevent your recordings from being used in this way.

Next, Amazon has permission sliders for each person in your house, allowing them to use any messages you send to improve transcription. Disable permissions for any accounts that you don’t want to participate in.

Alexa manages how Amazon uses your data

Manage Alexa Skill permissions

Alexa gives you more granular control over the permissions you grant to skills. Click or tap “Manage Skill Permissions” (in the app you may need to tap “Menu” first) and you’ll see a list of available permissions and whether you’ve granted them to apps. Scroll down this list to make sure you’re not providing information you don’t know or are uncomfortable with. For example, you might not want to give some apps access to your cell phone number or email address.

For each data type, you see a summary of whether skills have access. Tap the chevron pointing down to expand the box and see the details. You can revoke a skill’s permission for any data type by clicking the slider and selecting Confirm. You may be concerned about the permissions you have granted to a particular skill. In this case, tap or click the chevron in the “Filter by skill:” heading and tick the skill you want to review. Now you can see what permissions it has at a glance.

Manage skill permissions in Alexa

Keep in mind that revoking permissions from skills may cause them to stop working. If you don’t trust a skill or don’t want to use it anymore, turn it off by opening the Alexa app on your phone, tapping More, then Skills & Games. Tap the Your Skills heading, select the skill, tap Deactivate Skill, then tap Deactivate to confirm.

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