“Alexa, are you spying on me?”

By Jacqui McLean 

“Alexa” is the common phrase used to wake Amazon’s home virtual assistant. However, Alexa does not only listen when the phrase is used, she spies constantly. Often Alexa is woken without the wake phrase being said, leading to private conversations being recorded and possibly exposed. Shockingly, these seemingly private conversations have even been issued search warrants in court cases, accidentally exposed, and linked to other personal information like location. For example in a  2017 murder case, the judge believed there was enough probable cause to grant a warrant for the recorded contents of Amazon’s Echo. Although Amazon lawyers fought back, attempting to deny access to their customers’ privacy, there are no concrete laws and procedures in place for situations like these. Therefore, with enough suspicion, law enforcement can potentially have access to all your private information and conversations. 

Before you get too worried, there are ways to try and protect your privacy. First, you can go on the Amazon Echo app and change settings so Alexa won’t save voice recordings. This might make Alexa slightly harder to operate, however, it will keep your privacy more secure. Another option is to completely eliminate Amazon Echo from hearing you. By pressing the microphone button, Alexa will turn off temporarily and not need to be rebooted. Also, you can manually delete any conversations that may have been recorded in Alexa settings. Artificial intelligence, although a great advancement, compromises privacy unless used securely.