It's easy to make a joke about Alexa being some kind of spy, listening to everything you say and sending it back to her bosses to help them learn everything about you. But in reality...that's exactly what she does.
Just like how Google Assistant stores everything you say on its server, ready to be played back at any time, Amazon also keeps a record of everything you say to Alexa.
To be clear, these are only recordings of what she heard, so phrases uttered after you say the Alexa 'hotword' — and it will also record those times where Alexa thought she heard her name, so recorded you anyway.
The reason Amazon does this, is so it can improve the accuracy of Alexa's responses and her ability to understand a broad range of accents and dialects.
The company states: "When you use an Alexa device, we keep the voice recordings associated with your account to improve the accuracy of the results provided to you and to improve our services." Amazon also warns that deleting the recordings "may degrade your experience using the device."
The Alexa app lists everything you say to you Echo speakersScreenshot
How to listen to everything you have said to Alexa:
- Open the Alexa smartphone app or go to alexa.amazon.com
- Tap the menu icon in the top-left corner
- Tap on Settings
- Scroll down and tap History at the foot of the page
- Now tap on any of the entries, then tap the triangular play button to hear the recording
With each entry the app asked: "Did Alexa do what you wanted?," and you can tap 'yes or 'no' to help her learn.
Listening back to these recording is a weird experience. The way we speak to Alexa sounds quite different to how we would talk to a person — slower, more exaggerated — and what's most eye-opening is just how often we interact with her.
All the times Alexa incorrectly thought she heard you are also recorded. For example, one recording is of someone having a phone call in the same room as our Echo Dot. There is nothing sensitive or private in the recording (and Alexa wrongly thought the person had said: "Alexa, send a SMS"), but it is a little unsettling to hear the recording a few days later. Especially when it was of someone talking on the phone, oblivious to the Echo and its always-listening microphones a few feet away.
Amazon says deleting the recordings can negatively affect Alexa's performanceScreenshot
How to delete Alexa's recordings:
There are two ways to delete these audio files. One is to tap the 'delete voice recordings' button under each entry, but given your Echo device likely has hundreds or even thousands of entries, deleting them one at a time will take far too long.
Thankfully, you can delete all recordings at once via the Amazon website. To do this, follow these instructions:
- Go to the Manage Your Content and Devices page of the Amazon website — you may need to sign in first
- Click on the Your Devices tab in the middle of the screen
- Tap on the icon with three dots next to the Alexa device you would like to remove recordings from
- Click 'Manage voice recordings'
- Click Delete in the pop-up window — this window explains why Amazon keeps these recordings