Alexa is a voice-automated assistant from Amazon. Users love throwing commands at the speaker's voice to get things done at home. For example, you get information about the weather or book your favourite meal with just a few instructions to Alexa.
However, with the use of Alexa in many homes, the million-dollar question arises. Is Alexa spying on you? Do users have to worry about the privacy issues related to the use of Alexa?
Yes, there are certain Alexa privacy concerns that need some actions from the users. Let’s get started on the possible risks while using Alexa and the ways to mitigate them.
Since Alexa has access to your personal details like address, phone number, etc chances of this data leaking is high with the presence of third-party skills or apps in the picture.
Also, Alexa needs to be plugged in to start working. Hence, the possible threats emerge as people always keep such devices ON to decrease the work of repeatedly switching ON when needed.
Let’s look at some of the problems users can face while using Alexa:
Alexa has the capacity to start saving the requests you make even when you don’t utter the wake-up word. The possibility in these cases is that some of the words spoken by you at home might interpret Alexa like keywords. Hence, without your knowledge, it could have recorded many important conversations going around you.
Also, many examples from all over the internet claim that Alexa has shared all this sensitive information with many without the user’s consent. A probable glitch is a reason or again your language misguided Alexa.
Moreover, Amazon admitted that their employees listen to small clippings of conversations to help improve the understandability of Alexa in various countries. Thus, the chances of these conversations leaking to ad agencies are high as it contains our favourite meals, most-watched videos, downloaded TV shows, etc.
While these threats loom large, you cannot walk around with peace or hold important discussions at home regarding your office or personal things. Hence, caution is essential when using voice assistant devices.
Third-party apps or Skills in the language of Alexa are how you get your favours done.
For example, if you ask Alexa to book an Uber for you, the assistant should share your address with Uber to bring the cab home. However, Amazon assures that all the personal information sharing with Skills does not happen without your knowledge or acceptance.
However, hackers are always around the corner. They can access your information from those third-party apps easily. Or, break into Alexa to gather sensitive details like your bank account information. These are a few examples that hackers target with smart devices all around the corner of our homes.
Most homes enjoy the company of smart gadgets. Some of the most popular include smart lighting systems, smart security locks, etc. Also, when these home automated smart devices are in connection with Alexa, your data becomes more vulnerable.
For example, if you command Alexa to lock the door after you enter, you must feed the security lock number to Alexa’s memory. So, if hackers got hold of this information, your house is no longer safer from outside attacks.
Similarly, smart TVs hold crucial information to continue playing your favourite TV shows online. Strangers can gather these details with just one hack and use them against you.
The major difference that needs understanding with regards to Alexa is between listening and recording. Alexa listens to your conversations at home all the time. However, it doesn’t begin recording until the magic word is used. You use words like “Alexa”, “Computer”, “Echo”, etc to wake it up for work.
Technically, unless you use such words, Alexa does not save your discussions. So, you are safe from face value. However, it is not always that way. You are at risk whenever you use technology and many instances reveal that personal conversations were shared over the internet invading users’ privacy.
Some privacy concerns of Alexa are truly worrisome. Hence, there are a few simple tasks that you can try out to strengthen your security while using these smart speakers.
Let’s have a detailed look at the options to evade such risks:
Amazon gives this advantage to Alexa users. Go through each recording before you delete it if you wish. Else, you can also delete them completely. Use these steps to reach the page where you can customize your recordings:
Settings > Alexa Privacy > Review Voice History.
Alexa also helps you to take care of your conversations by asking ways to delete them.
If you wish Alexa to remain passive and not record conversations even by mistake, you can try to switch off the Echo smart speaker at home. Sometimes, your reminders go away when you forget to switch ON Alexa again. Hence, in those situations, try to turn off the microphone services alone.
The other possibility would be to leave the speaker in another room where you are not sitting for important meetings or personal conversations.
Amazon Echo also gives you the opportunity to never save your conversations in the future. This way, you are sure nothing sensitive leaves your speaker for sharing with other members. Also, nobody else can hack into your speaker to listen to such recordings.
When Alexa is connected to smart home systems, remember to maintain a special security PIN for enabling access. Else, keep your speaker away from windows and doors to prevent hacking from outside.
Most cyber-attacks happen when your Wi-Fi connection has no strong security options. Your router is the way for hackers to gain access to your devices. Hence, while setting up your connection, choose the highest level of security available with strong passwords and encryption.
Alexa certainly makes your life easier. However, with all simplified smart gadgets, risks are also present. Hackers can access Alexa for your personal details like recorded conversations, sensitive information, etc.
Therefore, try to increase your security settings by deleting conversations on time or never saving them in the near future. Also, remember to mute the microphone that might listen to your private discussions at home.
Enjoy the services of Alexa, but with more caution!