Can Alexa listen

Alexa voice recordings: how to stop Amazon employees from eavesdropping

Hans-Christian Dirscherl

How to prevent your Alexa commands from being overheard. This improves your data protection and silences Alexa. Update: Statement from Amazon.

EnlargeAlexa voice recordings: how to stop Amazon employees from eavesdropping
© Tyler Nottley / Shutterstock.com

In April 2019 it became known that thousands of Amazon employees regularly listen to Alexa recordings. The employees should write down and comment on the Alexa recordings. The result of this work then flows back to the Alexa server and is intended to help improve the quality of Alexa's answers. The Alexa users do not know anything about it and do not find out when exactly their recording is being listened to.

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If you want to prevent your Alexa recordings from also being listened to by Amazon employees, you can do this using various options in the settings of the Alexa app. This will improve data protection and the protection of your privacy and silence chatterbox Alexa a little.

EnlargeTap the button outlined in red here.

1. How to prevent Amazon employees from eavesdropping

Start the Alexa app, tap on the three lines at the bottom left and select the "Settings" entry relatively far down on the menu that appears. On the next page, tap on “Alexa Privacy”. On the page that now appears, select the menu item "Manage your Alexa data" (old name: "Determine how your data should be improved by Alexa"). Now a page opens with three sliders and several links.

EnlargeThe upper area is about listening to and deleting the voice recordings.

2. Listen to and delete voice recordings

Under the first link you can listen to the saved voice recordings and delete them if necessary.

3. Activate deletion by voice command

In the next paragraph you can use the slider to specify that the voice recordings can be deleted by voice command.

4. Define how long voice recordings will be saved

You can have Amazon save all recordings permanently or only save them for a specified period of time or no recordings at all.

EnlargeHere you specify how long Amazon should save the voice recordings.

5. Smart home device history

Here you delete the history of your smart home device.

6. Use voice recordings to improve Amazon's services ...

This slider is where things get exciting. Because here you determine whether Amazon is allowed to use your voice recordings to develop new functions. Literally Amazon writes: "If this setting is activated, your voice recordings cannot be used to develop new functions and they are not checked manually to improve our services". If that doesn't bother you, turn off the "Help us improve Alexa" function by tapping the slider and sliding it to the left. Confirm the message window that now appears by tapping the "Switch off" button.

EnlargeUse these two sliders to switch off Alexa listening.

7. Use messages to improve transcriptions

The bottom slider, in turn, decides whether Amazon is allowed to use your voice messages sent via Alexa to improve the accuracy of the transcripts. So that's where thousands of Amazon employees listen to the Alexa voice recording. If you tap the slider here and slide it to the left to “Off”, no notification window appears, but Amazon deactivates this function immediately.

EnlargeAlexa recorded a conversation here, although it shouldn't have been listening in at all.

With that, you should have silenced Alexa. At least as far as the voice recordings are passed on to Amazon employees. Because of course Alexa continues to listen to the signal word "Alexa" to help you as a voice assistant and then answers accordingly. Be it via Echo or Echo Plus or Echo Spot or Echo Show in the apartment. Or on the go via the smartphone app. Or in an Alexa-compatible smart speaker such as the Symfonisk from Ikea. Or increasingly also in the car - be it via a retrofit solution such as Roav Via Pro or via an Alexa integration, such as the one Seat has been offering since the end of 2018