Many of us are enjoying those fancy high-tech gadgets we got for Christmas. Smart home devices like Amazon's Echo and Google Home make life easier with their voice-activated functions.
Are smart devices always listening to you no matter what?
Tyler Wildman, CEO of Identity Theft Countermeasures Group (Courtesy: WTLV)
Kim Komando, special report for USA Today | September 29, 2017 | 'How to stop your devices from listening to (and saving) what you say'
WHAT WE FOUND
Amazon's Echo and Echo Dot, Google's Home and Home Mini, Apple's Siri all use voice detection technology to perform simple tasks when the user says the device's 'wake word'.
In order for the technology to work, the device's microphone is listening for the 'wake word' like like 'Alexa', 'Echo', 'Hey Google', 'OK Google', and 'Hey Siri'. The devices then record user's command.
"That is correct. When Google Home detects that you've said 'OK, Google' or 'Hey Google", the LEDs on top of the device light up to tell you that recording is happening," A Google representative said, "Google Home records what you say and sends that recording (including the few-second hotword recording) to Google in order to fulfill your request."
Amazon's Echo devices keep an audio recording of every voice command issued to Alexa.
"When these devices detect the wake word, they stream audio to the cloud, including a fraction of a second of audio before the wake word," Amazon's website reads.
One a request is made through Apple's Siri, the request is recorded as an audio file and uploaded to Apple's servers.
"We've all had that conversation where we said private things we assumed were private, but with these new devices, is it really private is the real question," Wildman told WTLV, "The thing that I look for in an agreement is where data can get stored, who it can be given to."
Yes. Your smart devices are constantly listening and doing a lot more.
TAKEAWAY - STOPPING YOUR DEVICE FROM LISTENING AND FINDING/DELETING RECORDED AUDIO FILES
Amazon - (from its website)
You can delete specific voice recordings associated with your account by going to History in Settings in the Alexa App, drilling down for a specific entry, and then tapping the delete button. Or, you can delete all voice recordings associated with your account for each of your Alexa-enabled products, by selecting the applicable product at the Manage Your Content and Devices page at www.amazon.com/mycd. You can also contact customer service to request deletion of your voice recordings.
If you delete voice recordings, we will also remove Home Screen Cards in the Alexa App related to those voice recordings. However, removing a Home Screen Card from your Alexa App does not delete voice recordings. If you have changed your default marketplace while using an Alexa-enabled product, you will need to perform this step for each marketplace to delete all voice recordings associated with your account. Note that deleting your voice recordings does not remove your Alexa messages. For more information on removing messages, refer to the FAQ "How do I remove messages?
You can turn off the microphone of Amazon Echo, Echo Plus, and Echo Dot by pushing the microphone on/off button on the top of your device. When the microphone on/off button turns red, the microphone is off. The device will not respond to the wake word, nor respond to the action button, until you reactivate the microphone by pushing the microphone on/off button again. Even when the device's microphone is off, Amazon Echo, Echo Plus, or Echo Dot will still respond to requests you make through your remote.
"Google introduced a new My Account tool that lets you access your recordings and delete them if you want," Kim Komando wrote in a special report for USA Today, "You can also tell Google to stop recording your voice for good.
On Android, go to Settings >>Google>>Search&Now>>Voice and turn "OK Google" detection off.
Komando also provided a tutorial on finding, listening and deleting everything you've ever said to Google. https://www.komando.com/tips/330748/how-to-listen-to-and-delete-everything-youve-ever-said-to-google/all
"With iOS 8, Apple introduced the "Hey Siri" wake phrase so you can summon Siri without even touching your phone," Komando wrote, "If you turn this feature on, this means your phone's mic is always listening, waiting for the phrase, 'Hey Siri'."
"Apple says this is processed locally on the device and your iOS device does not start recording your voice until it hears 'Hey Siri'. Once your request is recorded, it then uploads the audio file to Apple's servers for processing.
To turn off the feature, but not completely disable Siri, Komando says to navigate to your iOS device's Settings>>General>>Siri, then toggle the Allow "Hey Siri" setting to off.