2018 saw a nearly doubling of the percentage (41%) of households that have some form of voice-activated speaker, with the vast majority being Amazon’s Echo.
One of the reasons Amazon’s Echo is so popular is that you can expand its capabilities by enabling skills, which are like apps for your smartphone. There are over 60,000 skills currently available, and the number continues to grow each day.
One of the potential trade-offs when you start enabling skills is that because they’re typically third-party tools, you can be sharing personal information such as street address, phone number or email address with those third-parties without even knowing it.
Managing skill permissions
The key to controlling what Alexa can do is through the Alexa app for your smartphone.
Once you login to your account, you can select the three lines in the upper left corner of the app and then go to Settings -> Alexa Account -> Alexa Privacy -> Manage Skill Permissions to see what skills have requested permission to your private information.
Each skill will have a switch that can be turned on or off to control access to the specific information it is requesting. In some cases, skills like Uber or Lyft will need your physical home address in order to work properly.
Turning off skills
If you’ve enable skills that you don’t really want or need, you can disable them by going to the Skills & Games option in the user menu (the three lines in the upper left corner) and selecting “Your Skills.”
Amazon stores all your voice commands on its servers in an effort to improve Alexa’s ability to understand you better, which you can view in the “Review Voice History” portion of the Alexa Privacy menu.
You can selectively delete recordings or delete all recordings, which will generate a warning that it could degrade Alexa’s ability to understand you.
If you want to make sure that nothing can be purchased with a voice command, go to Settings -> Alexa Account -> Voice Purchasing and make sure the “Purchase by voice” option is turned off.
If you do want to use voice purchasing but keep others from using it, you can generate a voice code that will be required before every purchase.
The “Manage How Your Data Improves Alexa” option in the Alexa Privacy menu is how you can remove your voice recordings from the development of new features and transcription accuracy.