4 Tips for Protecting Your Privacy with an Amazon Echo

“Alexa, turn off that mike!!”

Those words might be the most useful command Alexa should – but doesn’t–  offer on the popular Amazon Echo.

Many Amazon Echo users don’t realize it, but understanding how the microphone works is critical to protecting your privacy if you own a personal assistant. After all, the Echo is always recording, and you never know how that information will be used. For example, conversations could turn into criminal evidence, as in the case of Victor Collins, who was murdered in Arkansas in 2015. According to a Time article, police ended up using the victim’s Echo to gather evidence.

Knowing how to protect your family’s privacy is an important security strategy at home. We recommend using the following four tips to adapt the Echo to reflect your privacy needs.

1 - Flip the Switch

One way to keep what you say private is to simply turn off the Echo’s microphone. Of course, this stops you from being able to ask Alexa for help. But just like the police in the movies who turn on and off their recorders when interviewing a bad guy, getting used to flipping the switch may become a necessary part of having secure, private conversations.

2 - Create a Special PIN #

Make sure no one orders stuff via Alexa without your approval by creating a special PIN number required to make purchases. You can go about this in a couple of ways. First, you can turn purchasing off altogether by going into the Settings area of the Alexa app, then clicking on Voice Purchasing to turn it off.  If that seems drastic, create a special purchasing PIN number by going to Settings, then Voice Purchasing on the Alexa app and creating a four-digit PIN number that must be recited to complete a purchase.

3 - Review the Log

Keep an eye on the history page as this shows the recordings saved in the cloud. Use the Alexa app on your iOS or Android phone to review the log. Simply go into the Settings area of the app, click on History, and then delete entries one by one. You can also go to Amazon’s website, click on Manage Your Content and Devices, and choose to delete all entries at once.

4 - Change “Drop-In” Settings

The “Drop-In” feature on the Echo is great for checking on your kids when they get home from school. But it can be very invasive when people call you unexpectedly using the Echo since they can suddenly be listening to whatever’s going on in your home. Control access by either turning off this feature completely, or creating a specific schedule for on and off times. Go to Settings in the Alexa app, and then click on your Echo device to enable or disable the Do Not Disturb button, or set up a schedule.