Is your Amazon Echo always listening?

Voice-activated personal assistants

Smart home concerns 6pm

Published: .
Updated: .

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - It's one of the hottest growing services, and maybe you received one over the holidays.

We're talking about the voice-activated personal assistant. Whether it's the Amazon Echo or the Google Assistant, it has started a conversation about everyday convenience - at the expense of your personal privacy.

The question that users are raising include: Does it listen to everything you say and have you given up your right to privacy with a device like this listening in?

Amazon has sold more than five million of its smart Echo Dot speakers. You ask it a question and it responds. It can play music, turn the lights on in your home and even start your car with a simple voice command, if you have the accessories to complete the task.

It awakens with the keyword "Alexa," you can ask it thousands of things and it comes up with an answer, whether it's the weather or simply telling you a joke. But the device also keeps a record of everything you ask it, and the question is what happens to that information.

We talked with a local security expert who has one of the Alexa devices himself.

"There is a large privacy concern here. And it really comes down to, is the user aware, is the consumer aware that this information is being collected? I've reviewed all the stuff and I know the kind of information it's collecting and I've just accepted that to this point," said Mat Gangwer, chief technology officer for Rook Security.

There are things you can do to protect your privacy when you don't want it listening.

There is a mute button. Or you can simply unplug it, but then you have to remember to plug it back in when you want to use it.

"All of the devices have mute switches. They are physical buttons on the device that you can go and hit. So if you do want to have a private conversation or you're just worried that it is listening in, to things you don't want it to hear, just click that button. It'll mute all the microphones on the device," said Gangwer.

"You can log into the accounts for the Echo and Google and clear all of that history of the things it has recorded that you have asked it to do. The downside to that is you're clearing out all of the personalization information," he added.

When that information is cleared, it reduces the personalized responses that Alexa can offer in the future.

So the question remain how much does Alexa listen and will it infringe on your privacy?

We asked Alexa, “Should I be concerned about my privacy when I use the Amazon Echo?”

She said she didn’t have an answer to that question.

As for the company, Amazon claims that it respects customer privacy and will not turn over personal information unless it is legally compelled to do so.

Filed under: