Amazon Echo is a brand of smart speakers developed by Amazon.com, which connects to Alexa to play music, set alarms, provide news, sports scores and more. The devices connect to a voice-controlled intelligent personal assistant service Alexa. But the news surfaced claiming that Amazon’s Alexa was listening and recording your personal discussion, and the device then sending the recordings to someone in their contacts – without your knowledge.
According to the latest report, as secret recordings go, the Portland couple’s conversation was pretty mundane. They were talking about hardwood floors. And their Amazon Echo smart-speaker secretly recorded a private conversation, then sent the audio file to an acquaintance. The wife, who only identified as Danielle, told her story to a local news outlet Seattle TV station KIRO 7 that they learned something was amiss when they received a phone call from the husband’s employee who lived in Seatle, telling them what he had inadvertently received. He then told them to unplug their Alexa devices right away.
In fact, Amazon confirmed the incident and claimed it was caused by an extremely rare series of events. The Echo misheard four different commands causing it to turn on, record a voice message, and send it to a contact.
The family says they will no longer use Echo devices, there are some less extreme measures that smart speaker fans can take to protect their privacy.
First and foremost
Turn off calling and messaging feature. It sounds like a simple solution. That’s because the gadget can accidentally record and share audio. Unfortunately, there is no option to turn off voice messaging in the current Alexa app. You have to talk to Amazon customer care service on the phone to turn off messaging.
For you, here’s the number you can call Amazon at (888) 280-4331. Or open the Alexa app and go to Help & Feedback – have Amazon customer service call you.
This is the only recommended way to turn of messaging features or delete contacts, as Amazon tells us, but it is working on a way to control these settings inside the app.
Don’t ever give Alexa your contact list. When you first set up an Alexa device on a smartphone, you give the app permission to access the contacts saved on your phone. If you are a new Echo user, skip this step and deny it permission. However, if you do give permission, it uploads your contacts to its servers. Even if you revoke access to the phone’s settings, or delete the app completely, Alexa will continue to have all the phone numbers and email addresses it already saved from your address book. In order to remove them is by calling customer service. You can, however, mute individual contacts in the app.
Echo is not the only potential privacy risk in your home. There are other smart assistant speakers using always-on microphones, like Google Home and Microsoft’s Cortana devices. Smartphones can also be set to an always listening mode, including iPhones and Google’s Pixel lineup. Devices without microphones can collect private data too. Connected cameras like Ring doorbells and Nest Cams, sensors that track movement, and even something like a “smart” fridge can all collect info about you that you’d rather keep secret.
Have an Echo and want to know what it has been recording?
It is advised to follow: Go into the Alexa app, tap Settings > History, and then listen to the recordings Alexa has made of you and your family. Once there, you can also delete them right away. Or follow the steps aforementioned for you.