Virtual assistants available on our phones and in our homes are collecting data. Can that data be used against you?
Amazon's Echo, which many people call Alexa, is at the very center of this question now. Amazon originally told officials in a murder case that the user information from Echo is private. The company is now agreeing to hand over user records with that user's permission.
So what does this mean for your privacy?
The Echo speaker is an interactive virtual assistant similar to iPhone's Siri or Google's Assistant.
Just like with your web browsing history, the questions you ask Echo or your phone's virtual assistant are logged.
And if that gets out, people can learn a lot about you.
People and businesses you call or look up, places you go, the times you're at home or somewhere else, the things you like or dislike and even reminders you make to yourself. All that is logged and can be used for advertising purposes or potentially even used against you by law enforcement.
So what should you know to limit the data collected by these companies that goes into your file?
Here's our cheat sheet:
- 1. Remember these devices capture data primarily after you say the trigger word. Companies say they don't log anything you say without that trigger word. But remember these kinds of devices are often targeted by hackers, allegedly including the CIA and other government agencies, according to the WikiLeaks documents released Tuesday.
- Use the mute button or on a phone you can turn off "active listening" for your virtual assistant. That will cut off the microphone unless you press the button.
- Delete your data periodically.
Apple says Siri keeps your data six months. For Amazon and Google you can delete it yourself. Here are step-by-step directions on how to do this:
To review or delete your Google data:
- Go to myactivity.google.com.
- Filter by date & product.
- Check "Voice & Audio" and click search.
- Delete individual recordings or full days of activity on the list.
To review or delete your Amazon Echo data:
- Go to amazon.com/myx and sign in.
- Click Your Devices.
- Select Amazon Echo or Echo Dot, as appropriate.
- Click Manage Voice Recordings