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Security & privacy

Pop quiz: Between Alexa, Siri, Cortana and the rest, what collects the most data?

We accept that a degree of personal data needs to be collected by smart assistants to work properly. This is a big part of how they operate, and without it, personalized results, directions or things like local weather would not result in useful information.

But not all smart assistants are made equal. In most cases, you can restrict which information is collected by the device and associated services. Other times, assistants might gather more details about your than you realize. Tap or click here to see how one smart assistant is secretly recording you.

You might want to think twice before giving a smart assistant unbridled access to your data. Here are the biggest offenders and how you can limit their reach.

Here’s the backstory

If you had to guess which smart assistant collects the most data on you, which would you pick? If you immediately thought about Google’s wide reach and how the Home app can be used for almost anything, you would be wrong.

Smart assistant data gathering
Credit: Reviews.org

According to research by Reviews.org, the smart assistant that collects more of your data than any other is Amazon’s Alexa. Google still collects a ton of data. It’s just that Alexa collects more.

It turns out that Alexa collects 11 data points, while Samsung’s Bixby voice assistant collects the same amount. Of the five smart assistants, Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri collect the least, only looking at eight data points.

Data gathered on you

The vast amount of data collected can be scary to see fleshed out, but you must remember that it’s this data that smart assistants rely on to provide you with the best service. If you don’t want to share data, the best move is to not use a smart assistant at all.

But exactly what data is collected? Well, it varies between devices and services. Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, Samsung’s Bixby, and Microsoft’s Cortana all collect your name, time zone, location and IP address.

Additionally, Amazon’s Alexa collects your:

  • Address
  • Payment information
  • Age
  • Personal interests stored in your profile
  • Personal description as stored in your profile
  • Acoustic model of voice characteristics

Samsung’s Bixby assistant additionally collects you:

  • Address
  • Payment information
  • Age
  • Personal interests
  • Personal description
  • IP address
  • Your calendar

Information collected about your files

Alexa is the biggest culprit when it comes to data collection about your files and activity as she gathers 14 data points. The next smart assistant, Samsung’s Bixby, collects information from 12 data points.

The information that Amazon’s Alexa gathers is your:

  • Voice recordings from smart assistant interactions
  • Images and video stored to your account
  • Record of interactions and requests
  • Shortcuts added to smart assistant
  • Records of communication requests with your contacts
  • Records of review and email sent to the company
  • Purchase history
  • Browsing history
  • Log of device use
  • Content downloads, streams, and application use
  • Images stored in your profile
  • File names, dates, times, and image locations

Limit the data that Alexa gathers

There are several things that you can do to limit the data that Alexa gathers on you. If you are concerned about your personal details falling into the wrong hands, here’s how:

  • Open the Alexa app on your mobile phone and tap More
  • Tap Settings, then Alexa Privacy
  • The menu will contain several options to restrict information gathering. You can also review the voice history and choose to delete it. If you don’t want Alexa to share your voice history with Amazon, tap Manage Your Alexa Data and toggle the slider next to Help improve Alexa.

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