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Michael Guberti: Five ways to protect your privacy from Alexa

Alexa states that “we know that you care how information about you is used and shared and we appreciate your trust that we will do so carefully and sensibly.”

Do their words match their actions?

While you consider the answer to that question, turn off the settings mentioned in this article.

It has been reported that Amazon employs thousands of people to listen to voice recordings from the Alexa devices. Full-time workers and independent contractors analyze and transcribe what people say to Alexa and feed that information into software algorithms aka robots.

On June 8, Amazon volunteered everyone with an Alexa device into its Amazon Sidewalk program. With the Amazon Sidewalk setting turned on, if your neighbor’s Ring Doorbell, Alexa or other Amazon device can’t connect to their Wi-Fi network, it will connect to your Wi-Fi network. The distance involved goes beyond your neighbors. Anyone about a third of a mile from your home may be able to connect their Amazon device to your Wi-Fi network using the Amazon Sidewalk setting. This may make you more vulnerable to cyberattacks and data breaches.

Alexa will notify you when they think it is time for you to buy more paper towels or similar items, but won’t inform you that your neighbors can now use your Wi-Fi network. Perhaps the reason why they avoided informing customers of this change is that it anticipated most people would not turn this setting on. Therefore, they turned it on for you.

Here’s how to protect your privacy from Amazon’s Alexa devices:

1. Turn off Amazon Sidewalk.
To prevent anyone within about a third of a mile from using your Wi-Fi network to power their Amazon device, complete the following steps:

a. Open the Alexa mobile app.

b. Click “More” and then click “Settings.”

c. Click “Account Settings.”

d. Click “Amazon Sidewalk.”

e. Toggle Amazon Sidewalk “off.”

2. Turn off the “Guest Connect” setting.
Has anyone who visited your house, apartment or residence ever asked you, “Can I pair my device with your Alexa smart speaker?” Most likely, the answer is no. Therefore, you can turn off the Guest Connect setting, which allows guests to “temporarily join your devices to get personalized responses from their Alexa account.”

To turn off the setting, perform the following steps:

a. Open the Alexa mobile app.

b. Click “More” and then click “Settings.”

c. Click “Account Settings.”

d. Click “Guest Connect.”

e. Toggle off the setting that says “Allow guests to connect.”

3. Prevent Alexa from recording and analyzing your voice recordings.
Here’s how to delete the voice recordings that Alexa would otherwise store on its servers.

a. Open the Alexa mobile app.

b. Click “More” and then click “Settings.”

c. Click “Alexa Privacy.”

d. Click “Manage Your Alexa Data.”

e. Click “Choose how long to save recordings.”

f. Click “Don’t save recordings.”

g. Click “Confirm.”

4. Turn off the “Use of Voice Recordings” setting.
Like other settings, Alexa defaults this setting to the “On” position. Alexa states “while this setting is off, your voice recordings will not be used to develop new features or manually reviewed to help improve our services.”

To lower the likelihood that your voice recordings are manually reviewed, complete the following steps:

a. Open the Alexa mobile app.

b. Click “More” and then click “Settings.”

c. Click “Alexa Privacy.”

d. Click “Manage Your Alexa Data.”

e. Toggle off the setting that is called “Use of voice recordings.”

5. Turn off the setting called “Use messages to improve transcriptions.”
Alexa states that this setting lets Amazon “use messages you send with Alexa to improve transcription accuracy.” That may mean that a robot listens to your voice recordings, tries to transcribe your words into text and then a person reviews the robot’s performance.

To turn that setting off, complete the following steps:

a. Open the Alexa mobile app.

b. Click “More” and then click “Settings.”

c. Click “Alexa Privacy.”

d. Click “Manage Your Alexa Data.”

e. Scroll down to the section that says “Use messages to improve transcriptions.”

f. Turn off any setting next to the names of the people who use that Alexa device.

Bringing it all together:

Enjoy increased privacy by turning off the settings mentioned in this article.

Michael Guberti is a social media strategist and founder of Smart Business People Services (SmartBizPeople.com), a full-service digital marketing agency. He can be reached at michael@michaelguberti.com.

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