A year or two ago, Amazon Echo and Google Home were novel gadgets to access the internet with voice-activated assistants, like Amazon's Alexa. Now, smart speakers like Echo are literally in millions of homes.
How do you use your Echo? You might use it to play your favorite podcasts, listen to music, hear your email or calendar or have Uber come pick you up.
Whichever way you use it, you have to be careful. You're linking to the internet with a device that's always listening for your commands.
That makes you vulnerable to hacks, and worse. If you have your Echo set up to make purchases on Amazon, who's to stop your kids or overnight guests from purchasing clothes, electronics and books on your dime?
If your Echo is set up to allow phone calls, who's to stop people from listening to your private conversations? It's important that you maintain as much privacy with Echo as possible - here's how.
1. Delete voice commands
Do you know that Amazon records your voice commands? That's useful because it's helping make Alexa smarter and more useful.
But if you're concerned about your privacy, and having your voice commands floating around, you can delete them. Start by signing into your Amazon account.
Then, click on the down arrow by Accounts & Lists >> from Accounts, choose Your Content and Devices >> highlight the tab Your Devices >> select Amazon Echo or another device >> Device Actions. Select Manage voice recordings.
That's creepy! Here's another way to delete them.
Just think about who can see what you're talking to Alexa about. Delete your voice command history right now.
Go to your Alexa app and go to Settings. Scroll down to History and tap on it.
You'll see a shockingly long list with your voice commands. Select the one you want to delete by tapping on it then select Delete Voice Recordings.
2. Turn off the microphone
You can't type in an internet search on Echo. That may sound like a bad thing, but it's the game-changing innovation that makes Echo so useful.
You just shout out a command like, "Alexa, how many teaspoons in a tablespoon" and Alexa tells you the answer. Of course, it's always listening for your commands, so you're opening yourself up to hackers by always being connected.
The good news is, it's super easy to turn off Echo's microphone. Touch the microphone icon on top of Echo to turn it off - the device will turn red.
3. Turn off voice purchases
The convenience of Echo can quickly scour if someone uses it to steal your money. You can easily set up Echo to make purchases from Amazon using your stored credit card or debit card information.
To set it up, go to the Alexa app on your smartphone or tablet. Tap on the menu (three horizontal lines).
Select Settings >> Voice Purchasing >> Purchase by Voice >> swipe to turn it on. Follow the same steps to turn it off, just swipe from On to Off.
You can also require a code to be input before someone can make a purchase. From the step Voice Purchasing above, select Voice Code and turn it on.
4. Block incoming calls
You may not know this, but you can receive calls on your Echo. That's fun and useful, but there's a problem when it comes to privacy.
It's easy to let someone snoop. So, say, "Alexa, do not disturb me" and your Echo won't accept incoming calls.
The tricky part is remembering that you have Do Not Disturb turned on. To turn it off say, "Alexa, turn off Do Not Disturb."
5. Change wake word
Most people with an Echo wake it up by saying, "Alexa." But you can change that wake word to protect your privacy and keep other people out of your device.
Go to the Alexa app >> Settings >> choose Device >> Wake Word. You'll see its default word is Alexa. Tap on the down arrows until you see four options for Wake Word, also including Amazon, Echo and Computer.
With this operating system, you can have privacy and anonymity
There are so many hackers and criminals trying to steal your ID that you might think there's nothing you can do about it. But you can.
Have you heard of The Amnesic Incognito Live System, or Tails? It uses encryption to hide you online, so you can browse until your heart's content without anyone, well, tailing you.