Protect Your Amazon Echo Privacy While Working From Home: 7 Simple Tricks
If you don't want Alexa listening to your every word, change these settings ASAP.
Katie TeagueWriter II
Katie is a writer covering all things how-to at CNET, with a focus on Social Security and notable events. When she's not writing, she enjoys playing in golf scrambles, practicing yoga and spending time on the lake.
ExpertisePersonal Finance: Social Security and taxes
For two years, we've been navigating the new normal brought on by COVID-19 and many of us are still adjusting to life as remote workers. And that likely won't be changing soon as many employees want to continue remote work at some level even as health metrics begin to improve across the globe.
If you're worried that Alexa is listening to confidential work conversations you're having, whether it's dealing with a customer's account information or your company's security information, simply unplug your Amazon Echo speaker while working. However, if you use your Echo for reminders, timers or daily routines, you can leave your speaker plugged in and turn the microphone off or place it in another room away from where you are.
Watch this: Alexa gets new features to make it a better listener
2. Ensure Alexa skills aren't listening in
In 2018, security researchers discovered malicious skills that exploit the Echo's Unicode character sequence -- which isn't pronounceable. This leaves your speaker listening and waiting for you to say the wake word, allowing the app to listen in on you. The researchers have noted that those malicious apps have been removed, but you should still be cautious about which apps you download.
Go through your skills settings in the Alexa app and disable any that you haven't used in a while. Read the reviews on apps you're unsure of to make sure nothing troublesome has been detected.
3. Manage and delete voice recordings on your Amazon Echo
You can view the audio transcripts of your Alexa commands and delete them in the Alexa app. Or, you can ask Alexa to delete your voice recordings. Amazon currently offers three Alexa commands that will allow you to delete your voice transcripts. Just say, "Alexa, delete what I just said" or "Alexa, delete everything I said today." And to delete all of your previous recordings, you can say, "Alexa, delete everything I've ever said."
If you prefer to delete your entire history manually, open the Alexa app and go to Settings > Alexa Privacy > Review VoiceHistory. Next, tap the downward-facing arrow next to Displaying and then the arrow next to Filter By Date. Then you will tap All History > Delete All My Recordings.
4. Keep Amazon employees out of your conversations
The Amazon Echo only starts recording when you say a command to Alexa. Once you say the wake word, like Alexa or Echo or some of the other wake word options, it starts recording the audio and stores it in the Alexa app on your phone. The transcripts and voice recordings are then uploaded to Amazon's servers for processing. If you don't want your Echo listening for the wake word at all times, turn the mic off by pressing the microphone's mute button on top of the device.
In the Alexa app, go to Settings > Alexa Privacy > Manage Your Alexa Data. From here, select Choose How Long to Save Recordings > Don't SaveRecordings > Confirm. Next, scroll down to Help Improve Alexa, and switch the Use of Voice Recordings to off.
5. Make sure your Echo Show's camera isn't recording
Most of the Echo Shows in the Echo lineup have built-in privacy features. The Echo Show 5, the Show 8, the Show 10 and the latest Show 15, all have covers for the camera to protect your privacy.
But if you have one of the earlier Echo Show devices, like the first and second generation, it will not come equipped with the privacy shutters -- but you can disable the camera by pressing the off button. You'll know it's off when the red light comes on. The lens won't be covered, but you can always place a sticker or thick tape over the lens for an extra layer of protection.
6. Prevent others from seeing what you ask Alexa
Everything you ask Alexa is saved in the Alexa app as transcripts and voice memos. So if you share the app with others, they'll be able to see every command you've given Alexa. If you're worried about someone seeing what you've said -- for example, if you told Alexa to buy a gift -- then delete the transcripts immediately (see tips 3 and 4 for guidance).
7. Secure your personal devices connected to Alexa
If you use Alexa to access your bank account information or have it connected to your home
, you're probably wondering what's stopping someone from accessing that information. Fortunately, most banking services require you to create a PIN code for extra security, so only you have access to your bank account info.
As for home security systems, find one that allows you to use a personal code so that only you or other household members can turn off the alarms. If your security system doesn't have a PIN feature, keep your Echo away from doors and windows to prevent outsiders from having access -- or better yet, get a device that works with Alexa.