With new inventions in AI personal assistants coming out quickly, like Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant who are “always listening” and always around us, how much privacy do we have? Well, just a little less than before. Many people have an Echo or iPhone, which both have intelligent computer assistants built in. Many people may also not know that these devices record what you say to it for use by the company.
If you issue, or “Echo” thinks you issue a command, it knows such as “Alexa,” “Echo,” “Computer” or “Amazon,” it will record what you tell it afterward. “A recording and transcription of the audio is logged and stored in the Amazon Alexa app and must be manually deleted later. For instance, if you asked your Echo, “Alexa, what is the weather right now?” you could later go back to the app to find out exactly what time that question was asked,” said Amy B. Wang of the Washington Post. Luckily these recordings can be accessed by you simply opening the Alexa app, pressing Settings and then pressing History, there you will find all the recordings that Amazon has stored on you. You may even listen to the recordings of yourself if you would like.
If this is shocking or upsetting, do not forget: you agreed to these services when you agreed to use the software. According to the iPhone Software License Agreement “When you use Siri or Dictation, the things you say will be recorded and sent to Apple in order to convert what you say into text and, for Siri, to also process your requests.”
License agreements are important to really read through if you are concerned about your privacy or other such issues. Since you agreed to it then it becomes legal for these companies to do with your recordings what is stated in the license agreement, but nothing else. Sometimes wording is left vague on purpose, if you do not agree with the terms, do not use the product.
Unfortunately, Apple does not allow you to access your recordings, but they do allow you to access the transcripts of those recordings, but only for those recorded in the last 24 hours. To find these transcripts, activate Siri then swipe down from the top of the screen.
Not everyone knows that they are being listened to by their devices, and of the people that do know, many probably do not know that these files are being saved and used to improve their software. “Few people realize that the data is there.
Google is relatively transparent, in that it allows you to review what has been collected, but it doesn’t go out of its way to publicize that it’s there in the first place,” said Simon Hill in an article on Digital Trends. Google has made it easy to find all the data they have collected on you. If you are logged in to your Google account, go to: https://myactivity.google.com/myactivity, click Filter by date & product, scroll down and click on Voice & Audio, then click search. Here you can find all the recordings of you using Google Assistant on your Android devices. You may also delete the recordings if you so desire. I tested this one, because it is the only service I use, and it works.
The audio recordings were a little weird to listen to but it was me just telling my phone what to text. This is the only feature I use Google Assistant for, and specifically so I can drive and just dictate a message to my phone completely hands free. So I think the risk of being recorded is worth the reward of having a personal assistant to write down my dictations while driving, no one else is willing to do it. So these “services” really do have a helpful real world applications and I am sure that a lot of you use at least one of them.