Virtual Assistants are Proliferating, So are Privacy Concerns

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Virtual Assistants are Proliferating, So are Privacy Concerns

Technology has evolved dramatically over the last couple of years. Today, Virtual Assistants are a common phenomenon across the globe. However, with these impressive innovations, numerous privacy concerns have emerged. If you’ve ever used voice services on Alexa or Google, chances are that your voice has been recorded and transcribed in a bid to improve the AI voice recognition technology.

Over the recent past, there have been reports of contractors listening to voice recordings ofunsuspecting clients. Several lawsuits have also been filed against non-consensual recordings of children’s voices. But, did you know that you can find any voice recording you ever did and delete them? Yes, you can, but chances are that these recording might still remain on the company’s servers.

The Proliferation of Virtual assistants Raises Privacy Concerns

Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri have quickly dominated the tech space in just a couple of years. In the US, about 66.4 million people own at least one smart speaker. Amazon Echo takes the biggest share of this user base as the application of these products continues to grow.

Despite their growing popularity, virtual assistants privacy concerns are real as many people treat them with apprehension and suspicion over the amount of content they record and listen to. A recent survey indicated that about half the users are either extremely or very concerned about the use of their personal data from smart home devices.

Eavesdropping is a Feature, Not a Bug

More often, Google or Siri will listen to you multiple times to pick up the words “OK Google” or “Hey Siri” even if they don’t record it. However, they might still accidentally record your voice if they think they’ve picked the wake word. According to a Bloomberg report, Amazon was using humans to transcribe voice recording from Alexa, and the majority of the cases were accidental. During such transcriptions, your sensitive details like the first name, device serial number, and account number are acquired.

Google Assistant isn’t spared either. A Belgian news agency VRT got hold of over 1,000 recordings from a contractor who was hired to transcribe them. In the process, 153 of the recordings were conversations that were never meant to be recorded, and the “Okay Google” was not given. Although Google decouples information by replacing usernames with serial numbers, VRT discovered that discovering users’ identity was possible based on the content of the conversation.

How to Delete Voice History on Google, Alexa, and Siri

Instead of chucking your expensive Echo out of the house, there are multiple ways to deletethese recordings from your assistant and switch off its voice recognition when you don’t need it.

Here is how:

Deleting History on Alexa:

● Open the Alexa app on your smartphone

● Tap “Menu” on the top left corner

● Tap “Settings”

● Tap Alexa Account on the top of the screen

● Choose “History” and delete the recordings you don’t need

If you wish to delete everything at once, go to Amazon’s device page and select the “menu” button of the Echo device you want to manage. Choose “Manage Voice Recordings” and tap “delete.”

Deleting History on Google Assistant

● Go to your Google Account.

● Choose “Data & Personalization” on the left navigation panel

● Select “Voice & Audio Activity” on the Activity control panel

● Tap “Manage Activity” to see the list of previous recordings

● Check the recordings you want to delete and click “Delete”

To delete all voice recording in Google Assistant, simply select all and click the Delete button.

Deleting History on Siri

Siri does not let you listen to or manage your voice recordings history. You’ll need to turn off Siri as well as Dictation to delete this history. To switch off Siri, go Settings >> Siri & Search and then disable “Listen for Hey Siri.” To disable Voice Dictation, just go to Settings >> General >> Keyboard and then swipe down and turn off Enable Dictation.

Having said that; deleting voice recording on these assistants does not guarantee that the recordings are deleted from the company’s server. However, you can take charge of what these devices record from the earliest time possible.

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