How to block listening to Alexa recordings

Amazon is allowing users to block listening to recordings of audio searches to employees of the US giant. Here's how to do it

Amazon, after Google and Apple, is also taking a step back after news spread about randomly listening to recordings of its digital assistant. Listening by employees, in this case, and not by third-party companies.

The e-commerce giant has made it known that it is possible, from Alexa's privacy settings page to disable listening to the personal assistant's recordings. In addition, Amazon has promised an update to the terms and conditions of use in order to make it explicit that, if the user does not choose to disable "manual reviews," his or her recordings could be listened to anonymously by an employee. This internal Amazon procedure, in fact, has never before been communicated to users and was discovered by Bloomberg last April. Shortly after, reports of very similar behavior from Google and Apple emerged.

How to disable Amazon Alexa's "manual reviews"

To tell Amazon that we don't want a human to listen, even anonymously, to recordings made by Alexa in our home, we need to go to the privacy settings web page and revoke the listening permission. This doesn't mean that Alexa will stop recording and sending audio clips to Amazon, but only that those clips won't later be listened to by an employee. Instead, the manual procedure of deleting recordings that have already been made remains unchanged.

Google and Apple also take a step back

As already mentioned, not only Amazon has decided to be more cautious with voice assistant recordings. Google and Apple, swept along with Amazon by the wave of outrage from millions of users alarmed by the leaked news, have also made similar decisions. Google has completely discontinued the procedure for a period of three months, in order to improve it and reintroduce it in the fall in a new, more reassuring version for the user.

This decision only affects European users and is certainly due to the recent opening of an investigation by the Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information in Hamburg, Germany, who is trying to understand if Google is complying with the European GDPR directive on personal data protection. Apple, on the other hand, has stopped listening to audio files collected by Siri worldwide, pending the completion of an internal audit of the process. When listening is reintroduced, however, users will also be offered the choice of allowing Apple to let employees listen to Siri recordings.