Watch what you say. Alexa could be secretly recording you.

Do you have an Amazon Alexa device or a Google Home device? If so, your conversations may be recorded. Yes, these devices are always listening for the wake word. For Echo devices, it’s “Alexa” unless you’ve changed it in settings. Google Home listens for “Hey Google”.  

Anything you say after the wake word is recorded and sent to either Amazon or Google. Of course, many people know that, but it’s being discussed again after a couple reported that their Echo device not only secretly recorded their conversation but sent it as a message to a friend.

Amazon explained it this way: during the couple’s conversation their Alexa device heard something that it interpreted as its ‘wake word’, “Alexa”. It then interpreted something they said as “send a message”. When it asked to confirm whether they wanted to send it to someone in their contact list, it heard someone say “yes” in conversation.

The couple told KIRO-TV they never intended to send a message and did not know the conversation was being recorded until a friend told them that the message had been received.

Alexa devices are ALWAYS listening and if you have one of these devices you can be certain its recorded you too when you didn’t know it. You can find out everything an Alexa device has heard and recorded by going into the Alexa app and choosing “settings”. Scroll to the bottom of the page until you see “history”. There may be hundreds of recordings listed there. Most of them are likely things you intended to say to Alexa such as asking to play a specific song, asking about the weather or the news. Occasionally it will record something it doesn’t quite make out.

If there is an entry titled “text not available” you can click on it to play what Alexa heard. In the past few weeks one of my Alexa devices, an Echo dot, recorded me recording a podcast and when it heard the word “Echo” in a TV show. (I changed the wakeup word on the Echo device in my office because I was tired of the Dot interrupting me every time I said “Alexa”.

You can delete all voice recordings within settings but that will not stop an Alexa device from recording again when it interprets something as its wake word.

You can change the wake word to Echo, Computer or Amazon (the default word is ‘Alexa) and you can turn off the microphone but that would render the device almost useless. My suggestion is to turn up the volume on the device so if it does jump into action upon hearing the wake word at least you might hear the device beep, signaling it is recording.

Amazon would do well to add the word “Hey” before the wake word. Google did that with its Home devices so they will not respond to the word Google, but only “Hey Google”. That makes a big difference.

As it stands now though, just remember Alexa is always listening and will record if you say what it’s wanting to hear.