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Yesterday, the news broke that Amazon has employed thousands of people to listen and transcribe your conversations via Alexa. According to Amazon, this information is used to better adapt Alexa’s search algorithm, but that doesn’t ease any privacy concerns. This isn’t the first issue that has been regarding Alexa and listening in on its users.
According to an article from Bloomberg, these employees (who apparently have signed non-disclosure agreements) are tasked with listening to up to a thousand audio recordings a day to determine what machine learning hasn’t quite grasped. Unfortunately, according to Bloomberg:
“Occasionally the listeners pick up things Echo owners likely would rather stay private: a woman singing badly off key in the shower, say, or a child screaming for help. The teams use internal chat rooms to share files when they need help parsing a muddled word—or come across an amusing recording.”
If this invasion of privacy makes your skin crawl, you aren’t alone. Plus, This isn’t the first issue that has been regarding Alexa and listening in on its users. Back in August, White-Hat hackers revealed that they were able to hack an Echo and use it for spying purposes. So, how does one keep their privacy without tossing Alexa in the trash? According to WIRED magazine, there are some ways to protect your conversations from Amazon’s prying ears.
1. Opt Out
The first thing you want to do to increase your privacy settings on Alexa is to opt out of the “Help Develop New Features” and “Use Messages To Improve Transcriptions.” These are the settings that allow Amazon to use your recordings for research purposes. While this isn’t a catch all, it is a good step to making sure your intimate conversations are not used as fodder in Amazon employee chat rooms.
2. Set Up Alerts For When Your Device is Listening
Want to know when your Alexa is listening to you? All you have to do is set up audible alerts that let you know when the device has been triggered. To set up this function on Alexa, in the Alexa app go to “Settings” and “Pick a Device”. Then, choose “Sounds” and go to the “Request Sounds” section. Then, turn on start and end of request sounds.
3. Update Your Security Settings
For all your connected devices, you should go through the security setting to prevent outsiders from hacking into them. Choose a secure password and make sure you enable the strictest security features on them.
4. Hit The Mute Button
Alexa has a mute button that turns off recording. If you want to speak in private and don’t want to risk triggering your Alexa or Echo, turn on your mute button until you plan on using it. While this can hinder the convenience of the device, if you have to go over and unmute it every time you want to use Alexa, you will have the privacy you want without having to pull the plug on her.
5. Learn Sign Language
Okay this might be a little extreme. But if you are seriously worried about privacy maybe, an Alexa or other audio controlled home device might not be the best option for you.
Amazon has insisted your information is safe, and names and accounts are encrypted and protected. However, there are private moments in any home that we would like to stay private. With connected home devices becoming more apart of our lives, we have to walk the line between convenience and privacy.
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