Are voice assistants listening to me? This is one of the most lingering questions on many people’s minds in the wake of recent reports that voice assistants are listening to us more often than we think. Tech companies like Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Google have developed Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered virtual assistants, commonly known as voice assistants, to help people perform basic tasks and provide quick answers to their questions. Despite how invasive the technology is, people across the world are embracing it and sales are soaring.
Does Alexa listen in on your conversations? Yes, and it’s not just Alexa. Siri, Google, Cortana, and potentially thousands of human reviewers are eavesdropping on your conversations. And the worst part is that any type of voice-powered service, speaker device, app or phone that can be used by speaking to or recording through it is always listening.
These devices, including smartphones, laptops, tablets, Internet TVs, Google Home, and Amazon Echo, are all around us, and as the demand rises, privacy concerns, such as personal information being leaked, are now being raised.
The good news is that you can take control of what your devices can hear and record and even delete those recordings.
Why Companies Are Listening in on Your Recordings
Amazon, Apple, Google, and other tech companies maintain that they record the communication between people and their digital voice assistants solely to detect errors and improve the system’s performance. The companies insist that only a small percentage of these recordings are reviewed by humans so that they can improve how well the AI understands and responds to human commands.
Yes, these recordings could be used for targeted advertising, but what if human listeners accidentally listen in on personal information that could jeopardize the user’s privacy? You might not know this, but when you click on the “I Agree” button when signing up for these services, you are allowing your data to be sampled.
Due to the recent revelations, some of these tech companies, including Amazon, Google, and Apple, now give users the ability to opt out of having their recordings reviewed without permission.
If you prefer to restrict access to your Alexa and other voice recordings, here’s a step-by-step guide.
How to Stop Google from Storing Voice Recordings
Google claims to have paused storing these recordings, at least for a few months. However, people are still using this service, which means that the recordings are still being collected and may be reviewed in the future.
So, what can you do to stop Google from collecting your voice recordings?
- Open your browser and log in to your Google account.
- Open the “Data & personalization” link on the left pane.
- Go to Activity controls > Web & App Activity, and uncheck “Include voice and audio recordings”.
- Google also allows you to delete all previous recordings and even schedule these recordings to be automatically deleted. To do this:
- Sign in to your Google account, click on “Data & personalization” and go to “Web & App Activity”.
- Click on the “Manage Activity” option under “Web & App Activity” and click on the three vertical dots at the top of the screen.
- Choose “Delete activity by” and select one of the options below:
- Last hour
- Last day
- All time
- Custom range
- If you select “Custom range,” specify the days that you want to delete.
- Click on “Delete” to confirm your actions.
To set Google to automatically delete your recordings:
- Click on the “Choose to delete automatically” option and select “Keep for 18 months” or “Keep for 3 months”.
- Click “Next” and then “Confirm”. Google will save your preference to delete any activity older than the time frame that you just selected.
How to Stop Amazon from Listening to What You Say
Amazon Echo is widely used to control smart home devices, search the web, play your favorite tunes, and turn off the lights, among many other exciting tasks. Alexa can be activated by the wake words “Alexa”, “Echo”, “Amazon”, or “Computer”.
Your Amazon Echo recordings are stored on Amazon’s servers, but recently, Amazon allowed users to opt out of the Alexa recordings.
To keep Amazon from listening to you, follow these steps:
- Pull up the Alexa app on your device and open “Settings”.
- Click on Alexa Privacy > Manage Your Alexa Data.
- Click on the toggle button to turn off “Use Voice Recordings to Improve Amazon Services to Develop New Features”.
- Also, turn off the option “Use Messages to Improve Transcriptions”.
To delete your Alexa voice recordings, you can use the Alexa commands released by Amazon earlier this year. Just say “Alexa, delete what I just said” or “Alexa, delete everything I said today”.
To clear your entire history, launch the Alexa app and go to Settings > Alexa Privacy > Review Voice History > Delete All Recordings for All History.
How to Keep Microsoft from Listening to Cortana Recordings
Microsoft’s voice assistant, Cortana, records your voice commands to recognize you. It also records your keystrokes, web history, location data, and so on. If you’re not comfortable allowing Microsoft to track what you’re doing and saying, you can tweak a few settings.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to stop Microsoft from listening to your Skype calls unless you stop using Skype. However, you can disable the “Speech” recognition feature to stop Microsoft from listening to your Cortana recordings.
- Click Start > Settings (the gear icon). Alternatively, hold down the Windows Key and hit “I”.
- Select Privacy > Speech, and turn off “Online speech recognition”.
How to Keep Apple from Listening to Your Siri Recordings
In August last year, Apple announced that it would not listen to your Siri recordings without your consent. Apple can only access your audio data if you decide to opt in. This means that you can turn off this feature at any time. To do so:
- Open your iPhone’s “Settings” and go to Privacy > Analytics and Improvements.
- Tap on the “Improve Siri & Dictation” option to turn it off.
To delete all your Siri recordings:
- Go to “Settings”, and then open Siri & Search > Siri & Dictation History.
- Select “Delete Siri & Dictation History”.
Protect Your Privacy
Don’t take your privacy for granted. While digital/voice assistants are the future of technological innovation, they put your audio data at risk since you don’t know who is listening. Protecting your privacy while still using today’s tech can be challenging. And although the major tech companies have taken security measures to protect your audio data, it’s not enough.
Hackers are also advancing and creating sophisticated malware that can track, record and snoop on everything you do online. However, you can have total peace of mind without having to give up on the tech that you need. This can be as simple as installing a good malware removal tool to safeguard your system and keep hackers at bay.
We recommend Auslogics Anti-Malware for 24/7 protection. The tool is designed to prevent data leaks by identifying and removing any suspicious apps, files or programs that try to infiltrate your system and make unauthorized changes. This security program can be used on computers running Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 10. Furthermore, the application works alongside your antivirus program, including Windows Defender, for maximum protection.
You don’t have to worry about data breaches again. Install Auslogics Anti-Malware and enjoy using the internet without fear of system breaches. Remember to keep your Windows system, web browsers, and security tools up to date to fix loopholes that hackers can take advantage of.
What are your thoughts on voice assistants and other apps listening to your voice? Please share with us by commenting below.