Alexa, Protect My Privacy: Data Deletion Voice Commands Arrive for Amazon Voice Devices



Deleting a full day’s commands is possible now, the ability to delete recent utterances will arrive in the coming weeks.


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Amazon has insisted for months that its voice-activated Alexa and Echo devices aren’t listening to your conversations. Now, in a move likely designed to offer more peace of mind, they debuted two voice commands developed to offer some protection.

“Alexa, delete everything I said today” will wipe your voice history for the preceding 24 hours, while “Alexa, delete what I just said” (a command which will roll out in the coming weeks) will erase the last utterance delivered to the device. Further, Engadget is reporting that an Alexa Privacy Hub is being launched and maintained to help users and prospective customers learn more about the product, review the privacy policy, and help them adjust their settings as needed.

To that end, these voice commands must be enabled. Current Alexa or Echo users must go into Alexa Privacy Settings, navigate to “Review Voice History,” and then toggle on the “Enable Deletion by Voice” feature. Absent that, any voice commands to delete will not work. Any smart home devices that are connected to Alexa can also have their history deleted, but that has to be done inside the privacy hub, manually.

This simplified method to delete recordings may (and should) be viewed as a win for privacy advocates and privacy-concerned consumers. Says TechCrunch about the change, “Amazon has offered the ability to delete recordings for a while now, but this brings the functional ability to the front with a simple command.” And as mentioned, Amazon insists that the command theoretically isn’t necessary; the company line has always been that they must be roused with a wake word, and any recorded information isn’t actually heard by the company or used to influence ad targeting or algorithmic arrangement.

However, it should be acknowledged that the deletion capabilities are limited (you’ll notice that there’s no “Alexa, delete my entire voice history” command), and users must be “in the know” to learn how to use it and must be diligent in doing so daily. AdWeek puts it simply: “the ability to simply ask Amazon’s assistant to delete its recordings is certainly easier than the status quo, but it still leaves the onus on consumers to protect their own privacy.”

Theoretically, this could change. Amazon has voiced openness to suggestions for additional voice commands and options for privacy, and continues to insist Alexa and Echo products are “built to protect your privacy,” and “provide transparency and control.” These latest moves demonstrate a literal vocal commitment to those principles.

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