What the Tech: Alexa is always listening

Published: Jun. 2, 2023 at 5:39 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - The Federal Trade Commission has fined Amazon $25 million, accusing the company of keeping recordings saved by Alexa, even after customers ask to delete them.

They say the device may have recorded you, even if you didn’t say her name.

What they listen for is someone to say the wake word, “Alexa.” Then, when the device hears that word or thinks it hears that word, it records the conversation for a couple of seconds.

Check it for yourself. Go into the Alexa app, tap “settings” and then “privacy.” That’s where you’ll find “review voice history,” which by default will show all the recordings for the day. You can change that to the last 30 days, or the entire history. You’ll likely see years’ worth of recordings, all saved on Amazon’s servers.

Look or listen to those labeled “audio could not be understood.” You may hear sounds from the TV or when someone said something similar to the trigger word such as “I’ll ask her.”

Amazon saves those, it says, to improve its functionality.

Do you really want Amazon to collect that data and save the recordings, though? You can delete the recordings by date, or all of them at once.

If you’re concerned about this, you can disable the Echo’s microphone, though you’ll effectively make the device useless when you want to ask for help.

And you can change the device’s trigger word to “computer,” “echo,” Amazon, or ”Ziggy.”

We found using the name “Ziggy” significantly reduced the number of incidents when Amazon recorded conversations.

More: What the Tech

Subscribe to our News 10 newsletter and receive the latest local news and weather straight to your email every morning.