Alexa and Siri allow millions of users to turn off the lights, play their favorite songs, and even place Amazon orders just by using voice commands. These devices listen for activator words and the instructions that follow to turn spoken commands into computer commands. But have they also been listening in on your private conversations?
Every time you say “Hey Siri,” or the key phrase needed to activate your smart device, that device begins recording your request. These recordings are archived so the device can learn how to respond in the future. In some cases, your recordings are even subjected to human review to further improve the accuracy and responsiveness of the voice assistants.
But in order to detect the activator word, your device is constantly listening. Which means that your private conversation, daily utterances, and even the sounds of your children playing may be recorded. It’s important to note that these audio files are meant to be temporary and the devices are supposed to overwrite them if they don’t detect a command.
We have two tips for using these digital assistants without compromising your privacy:
Delete your recordings
Deleting the backlog of your recorded conversations with Siri and Alexa is a simple way to make sure that your information remains private. Some of these archived conversations could have been made at a time when you didn’t mean to activate the smart device.
For Alexa devices, simply go to the Alexa Privacy menu, find the history of your voice recordings and delete the conversations you wish. You can schedule your recordings to delete after three to 18 months.
Siri is a bit more complicated. Make sure to Enable Diction control is off, and go to the Siri and Search page in Settings. From there, disable the ways Siri is alerted (e.g., saying, “Hey Siri” or pressing the Home or Side buttons) in order to delete the data from Apple’s archives.
Limit your device’s sensors
The microphone on Alexa devices can be disabled via a mute button on the device. Use this as needed in order to protect your information and private conversations.
You can also turn off Alexa’s cameras by saying, “Alexa, turn the camera off.” If you want another layer of privacy, you can cover the camera the same way you would the webcam on your laptop or computer.
To prevent accidentally activating your Apple Watch’s Siri, turn off the ability for Siri to activate using the Side button on your iPhone, and the Watch’s shortcut will simultaneously be disabled.