You’ve got Amazon Echo privacy fears. We’ve got answers


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Is Alexa always listening?


Chris Monroe/CNET

Since we were first introduced to Amazon’s Echo devices, the company has been challenged by consumers who have privacy concerns over the microphones that always listen for your command. Alexa users grew even more alarmed after discovering that Amazon stores your audio recordings to be reviewed by Amazon employees.

During last month’s Amazon event, SVP Dave Limp addressed the issues, saying “We care about this. Privacy is absolutely foundational to everything we do in and around Alexa.”

To that end, the giant tech company added new commands to help users know exactly what information Alexa is collecting and made it easier to delete voice recordings. There are also some new security features to the Echo Show’s ($230 at Amazon) camera (that’s the Amazon Echo ($70 at Amazon) with the screen) to keep people from worrying about being watched. 

If Amazon’s new privacy measures aren’t enough for you, look to these answers as a way to keep your data protected.

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You’ll need to enable the delete by voice in the Alexa app before you can use the privacy feature. 


Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

How to manage and delete audio 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 recordings, but you’ll need to enable the setting first. Then you can say “Alexa, delete what I just said” or “Alexa, delete everything I said today.”

You can also manage your Alexa data in the app and choose to automatically delete recordings after three or 18 months. Go to your Alexa Privacy settings and turn on Automatically delete recordings.





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Do Amazon employees know what I’m saying at all times?

The Amazon Echo only starts recording when you say a command to Alexa. Once you say the wake word, like Alexa or Echo, 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.

Once Amazon has the transcripts, they use human contractors to analyze the audio and text to help improve its Alexa voice assistant. However, you can opt-out of this feature and stop Amazon employees from listening to your recordings

Go to Settings > Alexa Privacy > Manage Your Alexa Data > toggle off the setting that says Use Voice Recordings to Improve Amazon Services.

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Press the microphone button to turn off the mic.


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How can I be sure my Echo Show’s camera isn’t recording me?

If you’ve got one of the earlier Echo Show devices, like the first and second generation, they don’t 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 if it bothers you.

The Echo Show 5 ($65 at Amazon) or the new Echo Show 8 have built-in privacy shutters that cover the lens when you’re not using them. 

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The Echo Show 5 and Echo Show 8 have built-in privacy shutters. 


Chris Monroe/CNET

Does Amazon Echo Show use face recognition?

Unlike Google Nest Hub Max, the Amazon Echo Show doesn’t use facial recognition to know that you’re you — though it’s worth noting that Amazon does have an optional face-detecting service called Rekognition, which you can use to add image and video analysis to your applications. 

Amazon also owns Ring, a doorbell security camera company, which considered adding facial recognition to its video doorbells in the past. That company has also taken heat lately due to its controversial partnerships with some police departments.

Can other users on my Echo account see what I’m asking 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 the first section above).

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If you’re sharing your Echo account with others, they can see everything you say to Alexa.


Chris Monroe/CNET

I have Alexa connected to personal services. Is it secure?

If you use Alexa to access your bank account information or have it connected to your home security system ($44 at Amazon), 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 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 different security system.

Want to know more about your Amazon Echo? Check out these 10 weirdest things you can make Amazon Echo do and these 5 surprising things you didn’t know your Amazon Echo could do.


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