Yet another user of an Alexa device received shocking news that one of their private conversations had been recorded and sent off to a stranger—this time to a man in Germany who had requested his own Amazon data from the company. Although Engadget says this particular instance was due to “human error” on Amazon’s end, previous cases involving accidental audio recordings have resulted from the Echo misinterpreting something as a command.
If you’re worried about inadvertently letting your boss in on a private conversation, you can tweak some of your Echo settings to make it far less likely to happen.
The surest preventative measure you can take is to deny Alexa access to your contacts when you first set up your device. If you’ve already enabled access, you can call Amazon’s customer service department at 877-375-9365 and have them remove the service. Sure, this process is “clunky” and takes about 10 minutes to complete, according to Lifehacker, but it gets the job done. You won’t be able to make calls or send texts as quickly, but you’ll have some peace of mind knowing that your contacts won’t be forced to listen to your conversation about hardwood floors.
It's also a good idea to change Alexa’s “wake word,” which prompts the device to start heeding your command. Unfortunately, Amazon doesn’t let you choose your own wake word—so you won't be able to switch it to supercalifragilistic—but you can switch it to Computer, Amazon, or Echo. USA Today recommends trying out different options to see which one is less likely to be confused for another word in your household. Just call out, “Alexa, change the wake word,” or follow these steps to change it in the Alexa app.
When in doubt, you can manually turn off the Echo's microphone at any time. Just press the microphone button on the device to ensure you won’t be heard or recorded during particularly sensitive conversations. And if you're going to use your device often, be sure to keep the volume turned up high enough that you can hear it. That way, when Alexa asks to confirm your expletive-laden message to grandma, you can catch it before it’s too late.