The Amazon Echo is the leading smart home gadget so far and it's dominating the smart speaker/virtual assistant market with a whopping 75 percent share. In fact, according to research conducted by the Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, there were already 15 million Echo units sold as of September of this year.
The Amazon Echo and Alexa pioneered the whole smart speaker category of gadgets and they opened our eyes (and ears) to what an always-on, always-listening appliance can do - it answers your questions, controls your smart home, plays music, helps you organize your day, reads you the news and controls your TV. Alexa's set of skills grows each day!
But before you welcome Alexa into your life, there are privacy and security risks inherent to these appliances. Here are three Amazon Echo security settings that you need to be aware of.
1. Turn off your Echo's mic
To turn the Echo's mic off, press the microphone off/on button on the top of the device. Whenever this button is red, the mic is off. To reactivate it, just press the button again.
Muting the mics will stop the Echo from listening; however, disabling the mics will also defeat the point of these virtual assistants. The always-on, always-listening nature of these smart virtual assistant speakers is what makes them truly compelling gadgets to have.
That said, it's still nice to know that you can mute the device during times you specifically don't want anyone (or anything) listening in.
2. Turn off Voice Purchasing or set up a PIN code for purchases
Voice purchasing on your Amazon Echo may sound like a convenient way to shop but it can be a potentially costly mistake.
Personally, I'd just rather turn off my Echo's Voice Purchasing option altogether and use Amazon's app or website to shop. To turn it off, open your Alexa app, tap Settings then scroll down, tap Voice Purchasing and toggle "Purchase by voice" to Off.
If you still want the convenience (and the sci-fi vibe) of Echo voice purchasing, you should set up a PIN code to avoid unauthorized purchases. To set it up, go to the same Voice Purchasing settings page on your Alexa app, toggle "Purchase by voice" to On then toggle "Voice code" to On as well. This will prompt you to enter your 4-digit PIN code.
Once you have a Voice Code configured, the 4-digit code has to be spoken out to complete a purchase on your Echo. Of course, anyone can simply listen in and reuse your code so having a Voice purchasing PIN is not fool-proof and brings in a whole set of security problems too. Like I said, I'd rather have Voice Purchasing set to off completely.
3. Check your "Drop-In" settings
Back in June, a new Echo feature called "Drop-In" was introduced. This basically lets other Echos automatically connect to another Echo to start a conversation. The other party doesn't even have to pick the call, the line is automatically open and it works similarly to an intercom system.
Although convenient in some ways, this can be a privacy issue since people can "drop in" to your Echo and listen anytime. You can imagine how intrusive it can get if certain people can just snoop on you anytime!
This is why it's vital that you check your Echo's Drop-In settings immediately.
To check your Echo's Drop-In settings, open your Alexa smartphone app, tap Settings then under Devices, select the Echo speaker you want to modify. Scroll down and tap "Drop In" and from here you can set it to On, Only my household or Off.
You can set specific contacts to be able to drop in on you automatically by going to the Conversations tab on your Alexa app (it looks like a text bubble icon) then tap the contact icon on the top right corner (it's shaped like a person). Based on your phone's contact list, the Alexa app will then list everyone who has an Echo linked to their phone number (creepy, I know) and you simply toggle "Contact can Drop In anytime" to on.
Beware that turning this on means that the contact can access your Echo devices automatically and drop in or listen and talk to them at any time.
To audit your contacts that are allowed to Drop In, go to the contacts menu again then check "Others Who Can Drop In on my Devices" to see everyone who is permitted. Simply tap Remove to revoke the contact's Drop In permissions.
Bonus: How to hear all your Amazon Echo recordings (and delete them too!)
Many people don't realize you can actually review your voice log with the Alexa app on iOS and Android. The app allows you to scroll through your activity and listen to each recording.
If you'd like to play an old entry, pull up the Alexa app and visit the History section within the settings. Tap on the entry you'd like to review in greater detail and tap the Play icon to listen to the recording.
If the thought of having all your recorded requests stored in a database creeps you out, you are able to delete them. You need to remove the associated entry of each recording on the Alexa app. Here are the steps to delete recordings:
- Open the Alexa app and go to the "Settings" section.
- Select "History" and you'll see a list of all the entries.
- Select an entry and tap the Delete button.
Note: If you want to delete all the recordings with a single click, you must visit the "Manage Your Content and Devices" page at www.amazon.com/mycd.
Keep in mind that Amazon warns, "deleting voice recordings may degrade your Alexa experience."
10 Amazon Echo commands you have to try
Do you already have an Echo, or better yet, multiple Amazon Echos around your house, click here for 10 tricks and commands you have to try.