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Security & privacy

Amazon Echo settings you need to change to protect your privacy

If you have an Amazon Echo, you know it pulls its weight around the house. You can use it to order Christmas gifts on Amazon, look up recipes while you cook and read the newest headlines. You also know it can come with a few annoying features.

Sometimes it will flat-out say, “I’m sorry, I don’t know that one” or “Sorry, I didn’t quite get that.” This often happens when it doesn’t understand you. Tap or click here to put a stop to misunderstandings.

Sometimes, those shortcomings can lead to bigger issues down the line. That’s why you should brush up on your privacy settings to make sure you’re as safe as possible. Here are 10 settings to change ASAP.

1. Sidewalk: Watch where you step

You may be walking along the Amazon Sidewalk without knowing it. This mesh network turns your Echo speakers — and even some Ring gadgets — into bridge devices. In other words, it can extend your Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connection by up to a mile.

Giving your internet-connected tech a boost sounds great in theory. When it comes to your privacy, though, it’s a bit less promising.

Amazon assures its customers that Sidewalk is secure, with three layers of encryption. Your neighbors won’t be able to see your data, it promises. Then again, the Internet of Things is notoriously insecure — and it’s not known for security updates.

One scary hack can even turn your smart speakers into spies. Tap or click here to protect yourself against the sneaky way hackers can use Google Home and Alexa to steal your passwords. If you want to opt-out, follow these steps in the Alexa app:

  1. Tap More.
  2. Select Settings.
  3. Tap Account Settings.
  4. Select Amazon Sidewalk.
  5. Turn Amazon Sidewalk off.

Maybe you want to learn more about Sidewalk before you pull the trigger. Luckily, we put together a comprehensive guide to the network. Tap or click here for details on Amazon Sidewalk.

2. Manage your voice purchases

Buying something just by talking to Alexa sounds like a huge convenience. You don’t have to hop over to your desk, turn on your laptop and complete an order. You can save time by just saying, “Alexa, buy me an iPad.”

That’s a lot of power. Someone could use that ability to drain your bank account. There are lots of stories from parents who didn’t realize their kids were ordering things online. That’s why we recommend setting up some precautions.

To avoid unauthorized purchases, set up a PIN code. Just follow these steps to get the job done:

  1. First, head to Settings.
  2. Then, select Account Settings
  3. From there, head to Voice Purchasing.
  4. If it isn’t already on, toggle Voice Purchasing to On.
  5. Tap Purchase Confirmation.
  6. This is important: Tap Voice Code.
  7. Then, enter your four-digit PIN.

Now, you’ll always have to speak your four-digit PIN before you can buy something on your Amazon Echo. Of course, it’s not foolproof. Someone could listen in and reuse your code if they want to buy something on your dime.

Here’s how to disable Alexa’s ability to order on Amazon:

  1. Open the Alexa app on your phone.
  2. Head to Settings.
  3. Then, select Account Settings
  4. From there, head to Voice Purchasing.
  5. Lastly, toggle Voice Purchasing to Off.

Another great way to protect your smart home is by going back to basics. And what’s more basic than a good, old-fashioned password?

3. Use a strong password/2FA

First, make sure you’re using an ironclad password so people can’t break into your Alexa account. Whatever you do, don’t use a simple code like “123456” or “ILoveJesus.” Weak passwords like that can be compromised in seconds.

That’s why we compiled the top 20 worst passwords. If yours is on this list, it’s time for an upgrade. Tap or click here for the worst passwords to avoid.

Now that you know which password to avoid, it’s time to find a stronger code you can use to protect your Amazon Echo. You’ll want something that’s easy to remember yet tough to crack. Tap or click here to get help creating secure passwords.

Another way you can keep snoopers out of your Echo devices is by securing your Amazon account. This is easy to do: Just set up two-factor authentication. Here’s how:

  1. Head to Your Account.
  2. Go to Login & security.
  3. Then, Edit. It’s near Two-Step Verification (2SV) Settings.
  4. Select Get Started.
  5. Then, just follow the on-screen instructions.

You should also make sure your voice isn’t in your device’s logs.

4. Delete Alexa’s voice recordings

Every time you ask your Amazon Echo a question, your voice request is recorded. To listen to all of your interactions with your device, head to the Review Voice History. You can filter by the day you spoke with your device and choose a particular entry to listen to your question and answer.

If you want to wipe out all of these recordings, follow these steps:

  1. In the Alexa app, click the three-line More menu.
  2. Choose Settings.
  3. Tap Alexa Privacy
  4. Select Manage Your Alexa Data.
  5. Under Voice Recordings, tap Choose how long to save recordings.
  6. Now, you can choose a time period for specific recordings to delete.

You could also hit Don’t save recordings to save yourself from work in the future. This also deletes previous recordings.

If you don’t want to do the work through the app, you can also enable voice deletion. You can say, “Alexa, delete what I just said,” or “Alexa, delete everything I said today.” Nifty, right?

5. Check your Drop In settings

An Echo feature called Drop In lets you turn your home devices into an intercom. For example, you could say “Alexa, drop in on the garage Echo Dot.” Once your bedroom Dot is connected to the kitchen Dot, you can ask your spouse what they’re cooking.

There’s an even cooler command you can use to make an announcement to all the Echo devices in your home. Just say, “Alexa, drop in on all devices.”

It all sounds really fun, but just remember that your Echo’s speaker goes both ways. You can use the Drop In feature to listen in or watch what’s going on in the room after 10 seconds. Unless you’re OK with someone hearing what you’re saying, you should look through your settings and beef up your privacy protections.

First, look over the contacts you have given the green light to:

  1. First, open the Alexa app on your phone.
  2. Then, select Communicate at the bottom of the screen. This takes you to a new page.
  3. Then, tap the contacts icon at the top right.
  4. Now you can scroll through your contacts and make sure Allow Drop In is toggled on for only the right people.

In other words, if you have a prankster in the family who likes to abuse the Drop In feature, it’s time to boot them off.

If you want to disable the Drop In feature altogether, here’s what to do. Just open the Alexa app on your phone and follow the above steps for each of your Echo devices. Eventually, you’ll get to the Drop In page for each Echo device. Just select Off for each one.

6. Turn off the mic when not in use

At this point, it’s common knowledge that virtual assistants are as nosy as they are convenient. They can pick up tidbits of private conversations if you say something that sounds like the wake word. Sometimes you want true privacy. If you’re worried about the privacy risks of your Amazon Echo’s always-on microphone, just follow these steps to turn it off:

  1. First, head over to your Echo device.
  2. Then, look for a button that looks like either a microphone or a circle with a line through it.
  3. Then, push the button. This stops the device from passing voltage through the mic’s internals.

Don’t worry — it’s easy to turn Alexa’s mic on again. Just press that button again. You can always turn the mic off when not in use.

7. Change your wake word

So, now you know Alexa’s mic gets triggered when you say something that sounds too similar to the wake word. Here’s a trick to stop it from turning on when you don’t want it to. Just change the wake word.

Most people use the words Alexa, Echo and Amazon. If you use these words, or similar-sounding words, in regular conversation, we recommend changing the wake word to Computer — unless you watch a lot of Star Trek, which will set off the Echo a lot. Use the new option: Ziggy.

8. Manage third-party skills

There are over 90,000 Alexa skills. North Carolina State University researchers found that only just 24% of these skills have privacy policies in place

Some skills don’t even need to ask for permission for activation. They can turn on automatically. That’s why we recommend setting up Alexa to be less invasive. To do this, you can head to the privacy settings.

To change permissions for individual skills:

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Select Alexa Privacy.
  3. Hit Manage Skill Permissions in the Alexa app.
  4. Choose the data type you want to access and toggle each skill on or off.

To view your alert history:

  1. Head to Settings.
  2. Select Alexa Privacy.
  3. Lastly, elect Review smart alert history. From here, you can delete alert logs.

To view your smart device home history:

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Head to Alexa Privacy.
  3. Select Manage smart home devices history.

Here you’ll find information on third-party smart devices connected to your Echo. Delete at your discretion.

9. Don’t spoil the surprise

If you often shop at Amazon, you know it keeps a record of your purchasing history. It’s great for checking receipts and looking over past orders. If you share an account with your family members, though, this can be an issue.

We’re not just talking about hard-to-explain orders. We’re talking about the holiday season. If you want to buy someone a gift, their access to the account’s shopping history can spoil the surprise.

Another issue pops up when you have an Echo device updating you on your package delivery. If it loudly announces the contents, your family member could find out their gift long before you place it beneath the Christmas tree. Here’s an easy way to stop Alexa from spilling the beans:

  1. First, open the Alexa app on your phone.
  2. Tap More.
  3. Then, hit Settings.
  4. Select Notifications.
  5. Tap Amazon Shopping.
  6. Now, find the section Let Alexa say or show titles for items you’ve ordered.
  7. Under that, you’ll find a box labeled For items in delivery updates. Make sure it’s unchecked.

Tap or click here for more ways to hide what you buy on Amazon.

The holiday season is coming up, so you’re probably expecting all sorts of presents. Maybe someone will gift you a new Echo to replace your current one. If that happens, you know have to figure out what to do with your old gadget.

10. Clear and delete data from your old Amazon Echo

What if you’re ready to upgrade your Echo or get rid of it altogether? First off, you need to deregister it. It has a ton of sensitive data — and you don’t want that info falling into the wrong hands. That’s why you should completely erase your old Echo. Just follow these steps to reset your Amazon Alexa-enabled device:

  1. Go up to your Amazon device.
  2. Now, press and hold the Action button for 25 seconds. The light will pulse orange and then turn off.
  3. Wait a bit for the light ring to appear and turn blue.

Make sure it has gone back to orange. This lets you know the device has been factory reset and is now in setup mode. Once you’ve done this, you’ve done better than 61% of the smart speakers people buy at eBay and flea markets.

A study from Northeastern University found that many old owners don’t reset their Echo devices. This means their details are still associated with the device. Yikes!

Lastly, do this to deregister your device:

  1. Head to Amazon’s Content and Devices
  2. Log in to your account.
  3. Click on Devices. This shows you all the gadgets that are associated with your account.
  4. Select your Amazon Echo device you want to remove.
  5. Then, click Deregister.
  6. Under the Deregister button is another option to consider. Tap Delete voice recordings to remove any recordings.

Now, you can safely sell or give your old Amazon Echo away to others. You’ve taken the necessary steps to protect your personal data.

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