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Are voice-enabled wireless speakers like Alexa and Google Home secure? 3 tips to protect your privacy

Here's what you can do to feel a bit safer when using voice-enabled wireless speakers like Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home or Apple’s upcoming Homepod

In this podcast episode we discuss what you can do to feel a bit safer when using voice-enabled wireless speakers like Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home or Apple’s upcoming Homepod. 

The holidays are such a perfect time to purchase voice-activated, internet-connected personal assistants. Deals are great, but should you be concerned about privacy? Smart home technology is amazing. It can make life so much easier and fun. But it could also open the door to privacy concerns.

So what you can do to help protect your sensitive information? Here are three steps you can take to keep your private information secure:

1.       Consider where you place the device(s) and mute when not needed

2.       Delete recordings if you’re concerned

3.       Make sure your wi-fi network is secure

Wireless speakers like Alexa work by constantly listening. Unless you press the mute button, these devices are listening to every sound within reach every minute, every day. Constantly. Now for the most part companies like Amazon have stated that once the “wake word” is detected, then and only then is when the recording surrounding that wake word is sent to their servers.

Now that sounds about right but sometimes things don’t go as expected. For example just last month (October 2017) Google’s home mini was caught recording everything and sending all the data to Google. The good news is that Google fixed the issue before the devices were shipped. But that’s something you’ve got to remember—when things don’t go according to plan that means YOUR information is at risk.

So what can you do? Let’s start with #1:

1)      Consider where you place the devices

a.       Do you really need the device in the bedroom?

More public locations like your living room, family room, dining room are great

Bedrooms and bathrooms may record a bit too much for your comfort and peace of mind

b.       Don’t forget about the mute button

 –There are times you simply need privacy. So press the mute button 😊

c.       Remember your guests in the house are being recorded too—and vice-versa when you are visiting someone else’s home where these devices are also recording you.

2)      Concerned? You can delete recordings

a.       How to delete recordings from Google Home

-Go to myactivity.google.com.

Click on “Filter by date & product”, Check only “Voice & audio”, Hit the search button

Now you can delete all voice activity or individual recordings

b.       Two ways to delete Alexa recordings

 –Open the Alexa app on your device

1.       Select settings, then history

2.       You can listen to your recordings and or delete them

Also you can visit the amazon.com website and select “Manage your Content and Devices”.

1.       Select your device

2.       Click “Manage voice recordings” which will delete everything

c.       Note first that your recordings are kept to help the devices learn your voice a bit better, so deleting them can make it harder for them to understand your requests at times. However, for peace of mind deleting your voice recordings regularly probably is well worth it.

3)      Make sure your wi-fi network is secure.  

a.       What is your weakest link? Is it the device or your wi-fi network?

Rest assured that Amazon, Google, Apple & Microsoft want to keep their credibility high and will do everything it takes to keep your information private and secure.

What you don’t want is to make it easier for hackers to get into your wi-fi network.

b.       Update your router’s firmware

Just last month a new KRACK vulnerability was detected that makes wi-fi hacking possible.

c.       Change your router’s password

Don’t use the default password

Update it—make it strong and complex

 –If you have a guest network—do you really need it?

Other modems like Comcast automatically turn on a public wi-fi hotspot using your device. While this *should be* secure, consider logging onto your account and disabling this service.

So if you’ve got Alexa, Google Home or another A/I device on your Christmas list, make sure you follow these 3 steps to keep your private information secure.

Follow these steps, use common sense, and know that the device makers are doing everything they can to ease your mind and help you feel safer when using them.

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