Sunday, May 22, 2022

How to find everything the Amazon Echo and Google Home know about you

Has Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Google Home taken up residence in your home? If not, you’re probably at least considering adding one of these digital helpers. They are supremely useful after all, providing assistance with everything from weather forecasts to smart-home control. All you need to do is ask.

In order to fulfill your requests, however, both of these voice-activated digital assistants must upload your verbal commands to the cloud. Just what does that entail? The short answer is that your commands are saved to your Amazon or Google account respectively. And the more you use these devices, and the more services you link to them, the more their respective manufacturers will know about you. Those insights can range from what kinds of movies and music you like to what time you go to bed.

Fortunately, there are privacy options you can manage, as well as ways to purge that collected information. We’ll show you how you can get the most out of these devices while maintaining the maximum amount of personal privacy.

How these voice assistants work

Google Home, Amazon Echo (and it’s cost-reduced sibling, Echo Dot) are always listening, so they can spring into action upon hearing the wake word. With Google Home, it’s “OK, Google” or “Hey, Google.” “Alexa” is the Echos’ default wake word, but you can change it to “Amazon” or “Echo” if you find those easier to remember. This “always listening” feature freaks some people out, but Amazon and Google both assure us that while their devices might be listening, it doesn’t mean every conversation is recorded in the cloud. That happens only when the wake words are detected. You can read Google’s privacy policy on this Google help page, and you’ll find Amazon’s on this Alexa support site.

alexa cardsIDG

Alexa can handle a wide variety of questions, saving them to your Amazon account for later viewing.

Both devices start listening when they detect the wake word, but only record and keep your conversation if they produce a valid response. When they do keep something, Both Google and Amazon allow you to listen to what you said, so you can compare that recording to what the device transcribed.

As noted from the example above from my Alexa account, you can see the details of what was asked and what Alexa said in return. You can dive in further here to take control of what both Amazon and Google know about you and how much information they saved based on your conversations.

Digging into the Alexa app

The main hub for your Echo content is through the Alexa app, which is available for Android, iOS, and Fire devices and on the Alexa website. You’re able to view, listen to, and even delete your past searches. The interface on the mobile apps is nearly identical to what you see on the web.

The more you use Alexa, you’ll also begin to see suggested snippets of information, somewhat akin to the cards in Google Now. The first entry will show you a Voice feedback section that displays what Alexa thought it heard and will replay the voice recording. You can play back the recording and see Alexa’s response. You’re also able to remove the card, but this is not the same as deleting it.


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