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Friday, March 1, 2019

How to hear and delete every conversation your Amazon Alexa has recorded

Digital assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are designed to learn more about you as they listen, and part of doing so is to record conversations you’ve had with them to learn your tone of voice, prompts, and requests.

While this is supposed to help the assistants like Alexa learn to give you better answers, this feature-not-a-bug has landed Amazon in a string of bizarre headlines. In 2018, users have reported that their Echo speakers began spontaneously laughing, while a family in Portland said their device recorded and sent conversations to a colleague without their knowledge. For these instances, Amazon claims that the devices were likely triggered by false positive commands.

Still, it’s not uncommon for smart speakers to pick up a random part of your everyday conversations and misunderstand it as a wake word (especially if you may have changed the Alexa trigger to a more common word, like “Computer”). If you’re curious what Alexa has been hearing and recording in your household, here’s a quick way to check.

On the app

First, open the Alexa app on your smart device. Tap the hamburger icon on the top left side of the screen to open the menu options. Click on the Settings menu, then find Alexa Account. Tap on Alexa Privacy, and here you’ll be able to browse all the commands you’ve ever asked of Alexa, from timers to music requests to general internet queries.

You can also sort the results by date. Sometimes you may even see just a line item that says “Alexa,” for those times you may have mentioned the assistant’s name but didn’t mean to actually use it. Tapping on individual requests also lets you hear yourself in the instance you said these prompts to Alexa, and choose to delete them if you wish.

You may notice a few instances where the Alexa app notes a “text not available.” Click on this, and you can listen to a recording of what you or someone in your household said that prompted the Echo to listen to your current conversation. 

On the web

If you prefer to do this on a desktop, you can also manage your Alexa history by going to Amazon’s dedicated Alexa Privacy page. Here, you can follow the same steps as above to view, listen, and clear your Alexa voice prompts as needed.

To wipe out your entire Alexa history, you can also access Amazon’s Manage Your Content and Devices and select your Android device. Here, you can click Manage voice recordings to erase everything with one click.

The company, of course, cautions that doing so “may degrade your Alexa experience.” As noted above, Amazon keeps these recordings to personalize the Alexa experience to your household and uses them to create an acoustic model of your voice. 

While it does automatically create a voice profile for each new user it recognizes (or ones you’ve manually added), the company says it deletes acoustic models if it has not recognized any particular user for three years.

For heavy Alexa users, going through all of these commands to find egregious conversations to delete might be too much work. But if you’re nervous about what the Echo has been listening to you say, it may be worth browsing to make sure nothing it has recorded is something you want transmitted elsewhere.

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