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Are Siri and Alexa Invading Your Privacy? Here’s What We Know

Here is all you need to know about whether or not Alexa and Siri are invading your privacy.

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Digital voice assistants such as Siri and Alexa are used by millions of people around the globe. These assistants observe and collect your data in realtime and process the desired output using Artificial Intelligence(AI).

Most of the data these digital assistants use are personal and potentially sensitive information. By their very nature, these devices tend to listen to something called "wake words", after which they immediately start recording and transfer your request into their cloud-based storage in order to process it.

However, does the recording immediately stop after the output has been delivered, or does it continue? Frightening, isn't it? Here is all you need to know about whether or not Alexa and Siri are invading your privacy.

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What happens when you speak to Alexa and Siri?

According to amazon.com, when you speak to Alexa, a recording of your request is sent to Amazon’s cloud for processing and thereafter, Alexa responds. For example, when you ask, “Alexa, play top hits from Amazon Music”, it uses the recording of your request and delivers output by playing top hits from Amazon music.

In case of Siri, information from your phone is directly accessed to generate output. According to apple.com, when you use Siri, the things you say and dictate are sent to Apple’s cloud to deliver the output.

How do Siri and Alexa collect your data?

According to Amazon, Echo devices are not designed to store any data. These devices have microphones that listen continously and process data in the cloud storage where the data is encrypted.

On the other hand, Siri collects names from your mobile contacts. The other data it collects are:

• music, books, and podcasts you enjoy

• names of your family members’ devices in a shared network

• names of devices, homes, and members of a shared home in the Home app

• names of your photo albums, apps installed on your device, and shortcuts you have added through Siri.

Are Siri and Alexa always listening?

Amazon says “No”. “By default, Echo devices are designed to detect only your chosen wake word (Alexa, Amazon, Computer, or Echo). The device detects the wake word by identifying acoustic patterns that match the wake word. No audio is stored or sent to the cloud unless the device detects the wake word (or Alexa is activated by pressing a button),” reads a statement by Amazon.

Similarly Siri does not listen to you unless you call out its name, Apple says.

How do you know when Alexa and Siri are sending your data to the cloud?

As soon as you say the wake word, both voice assistants send your data to the cloud, based on which responses are generated.

Is it possible for you to delete your voice history?

In the case of Alexa, you can delete by just saying “Alexa, delete everything I said today”, or “Alexa, delete everything I say forever”. You can also delete manually by going to Settings > Alexa Privacy > Manage Your Alexa Data on the Alexa app.

On your iPhone, go to  Siri>Siri and Dictation History>Delete Dictation History.

Do these assistants record your private conversations?

As mentioned above, the assistants do not record unless you wake them up. According to the companies, at least.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Alexa   Apple Siri   FAQs 

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