One of the most convenient aspects of tech is the ability to get information instantly, just by asking. Digital assistants, such as Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant, can make getting information even easier — all you have to do is speak your question.
But over time we’ve learned that gathering information isn’t just one-way. Instead, your devices may be listening to you, even when you wish they wouldn’t.
If you’ve ever seen ads based on a discussion you’ve just had, you may be creeped out by the idea that you’re being listened to by your tech. Or maybe your search results seem to prompt you towards words you just said in a conversation.
And digital assistants may not be the only ones listening to you. Recent reports reveal that actual human beings may listen to queries made to digital assistants, to help improve their responses.
What if you don’t want to be heard by your devices? What if you’d prefer to keep your conversations private?
There may be times when you want to turn off the microphone on your devices so they won’t listen to your conversations. Maybe you want to leave the microphone off and only turn it on when you need it. Or maybe you just want to know how to turn off the microphone in case you may need to some day.
By adjusting your privacy settings and learning how to turn off your devices’ microphones, you can better protect yourself from your devices listening to your conversations when you don’t want them to.
This handy infographic shows you how to adjust your privacy settings and how to turn off the microphone on your devices quickly and easily.
The next time you’d prefer not to be heard by tech, follow these steps:
Alexa on Echo Speakers
You can turn off the microphone on Echo speakers to stop Alexa from listening. Turn off the microphone by pressing the microphone button on your Echo speaker. When the microphone is turned off a red ring will appear around the top of a traditional Echo speaker. On an Echo Show or Spot, a red line will appear at the bottom of the screen.
You can also ask Alexa, “Delete everything I said today” to delete conversations that Alexa has recorded.
Amazon now gives Alexa users an option to prevent humans from listening to their recorded conversations, while Apple and Google have recently halted human review of Siri and Google Assistant recordings. See Bloomberg, Amazon Gives Option to Disable Human Review on Alexa.
Here’s how to change your Alexa settings to prevent humans from listening to your conversations.
Go to the Alexa Privacy page and click on Manage How Your Data Improves Alexa.
On the next page, turn off Help Improve Amazon Services and Develop New Features.
If you want to be 100% certain Alexa isn’t listening, unplug your Echo device.
To adjust your privacy settings for Google Assistant, go to the Google Activity Controls page, then scroll down to Voice & Audio Activity.
Turn this feature off to prevent Google from saving a recording of your voice commands to Google Assistant. According to Google:
“Your audio is saved to your account only when you’re signed in and Voice & Audio Activity is turned on. Audio can be saved even when your device is offline. When Voice & Audio Activity is off, voice inputs won’t be saved to your Google Account, even if you’re signed in.”
On the Voice & Audio Activity page, you can see a list of conversations Google Assistant has recorded. You can listen to the Google Assistant recordings and/or delete them.
Smart Video Doorbell
Smart video doorbells can be very handy for seeing who is at your door, but they can also be vulnerable to hacking. As with any other online account, be sure to keep your video doorbell account safe by choosing a strong, unique password and not sharing that password with anyone else.
Smart Phones — Android and iPhone
Apps may ask for your permission to access your microphone, but not all apps need microphone access to work properly. You should turn off your cell phone microphone permissions for any apps that don’t need to listen to you.
For Android phones, go to Settings => Apps, then tap the three stacked dots. Choose App Permissions. Tap Microphone, and turn off permission for any apps you don’t want to have access.
To turn off microphone permissions for apps on the iPhone, go to Settings => Privacy => Microphone, then turn off permissions for apps that don’t need microphone access.
Are you concerned that your devices are listening to you? Will you be adjusting your settings to help prevent your devices from listening to you? Have you ever been creeped out by ads or search results that seemed to be based on something you said?
Share your thoughts in the Comments section below!
* Phone and earbuds photo courtesy of William Iven via Unsplash and Creative Commons
** Infographic courtesy of PhoneSpector, used with permission