How to Prevent Your Alexa Device From Recording Your Private Conversations

iStock.com/seewhatmitchsee
iStock.com/seewhatmitchsee

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.

[h/t Engadget]

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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More Than 38,000 Pounds of Ground Beef Has Been Recalled

Beef-ware.
Beef-ware.
Angele J, Pexels

Your lettuce-based summer salads are safe for the moment, but there are other products you should be careful about using these days: Certain brands of hand sanitizer, for example, have been recalled for containing methanol. And as Real Simple reports, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) recently recalled 38,406 pounds of ground beef.

When JBS Food Canada ULC shipped the beef over the border from its plant in Alberta, Canada, it somehow skirted the import reinspection process, so FSIS never verified that it met U.S. food safety standards. In other words, we don’t know if there’s anything wrong with it—and no reports of illness have been tied to it so far—but eating unapproved beef is simply not worth the risk.

The beef entered the country on July 13 as raw, frozen, boneless head meat products, and Balter Meat Company processed it into 80-pound boxes of ground beef. It was sent to holding locations in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina before heading to retailers that may not be specific to those four states. According to a press release, FSIS will post the list of retailers on its website after it confirms them.

In the meantime, it’s up to consumers to toss any ground beef with labels that match those here [PDF]. Keep an eye out for lot codes 2020A and 2030A, establishment number 11126, and use-or-freeze-by dates August 9 and August 10.

[h/t Real Simple]