Tech Guide

Amazon employees are listening to what you say to Alexa — here's how to stop them

Key Points
  • Amazon employees are listening to what some people say to Alexa.
  • Amazon says this is to help improve Alexa's functionality.
  • There's a setting that lets you turn off the option to share this data with Amazon.
Amazon unveils a new version of the Echo Dot at an event on Sept. 20, 2018.
Todd Haselton | CNBC

A report from Bloomberg revealed that thousands of Amazon employees are listening to what people say when they talk to Alexa.

Amazon said it uses these conversations to improve Alexa's "understanding of human speech." Bloomberg's report Wednesday said the voice snippets are tied to device serial numbers and the owner's first name. An Amazon spokesperson said Echo devices only make recordings after hearing a wake word like Alexa.

But there's a way to prevent Amazon employees from listening in. CNBC dug through the Alexa app, and the option to share this type of information with Amazon was on by default. You can turn it off.

In the Alexa app, which is available for iPhones and Android, the Alexa privacy settings page says this:

Use Voice Recordings to Help Develop New Features
Training Alexa with recordings from a diverse range of customers helps ensure Alexa works well for everyone. When this setting is enabled, your voice recordings may be used in the development of new features. If you turn this setting off, new features may not work well for you.

The page also, by default, lets Amazon improve transcription by using the messages you send with Alexa to other people.

You can turn off settings that upload your Alexa conversations to Amazon.
Todd Haselton | CNBC

To turn these settings off, do this:

  • Open the Alexa app on your phone.
  • Tap the menu button on the top left of the screen.
  • Select "Alexa Account."
  • Choose "Alexa Privacy."
  • Select "Manage how your data improves Alexa."
  • Turn off the button next to "Help Develop New Features."
  • Turn off the button next to your name under "Use Messages to Improve Transcriptions."

I never knew these settings were on in the first place, and it's entirely possible Amazon could still use other data. But at least this gives you more control over what messages from Alexa are sent to Amazon in the first place.

What happens when you ask Alexa, Google and Siri if they are spying on you