Can You Use Alexa to Spy on Someone? Can Alexa Be Your Smart Secret Agent?

can-you-use-alexa-to-spy-on-someone

Amazon’s wide range of smart home devices has provided consumers with all they need to automate their homes. Out of all these devices, their smart home voice assistant, Alexa, has gained significant popularity among users worldwide. However, with its numerous benefits come some doubts and loopholes regarding the product’s privacy protection. Most users ponder over the thought and wonder if they can use Alexa to spy on someone.

Well, there’s no one way to it. We did our research and had some valuable answers to your questions. Let us understand all the details and establish how Alexa could be your smart secret agent. Keep reading to know all about it!

Can you use Alexa to spy on someone?

Yes, you can use your Alexa Echo device to spy on someone. Understanding the how and why behind this is not as simple as the answer, as users might consider this a breach of their privacy.

Some of Alexa’s features unknowingly assist you in spying or eavesdropping on someone. One of the easiest and fastest ways would be to listen in on conversations directly around your Echo device. Within your Alexa application, you will find a ‘Drop-In On Echo’ option. After enabling it, your Echo device will be connected to the smartphone you have used.

After that, you can listen to the sounds around your Echo device when you’re at home or even remotely.

Can I use Alexa to record conversations?

Yes, you can get access to the conversations Alexa is recording and listen to them. Your Alexa device records the conversations that take place around it. All you need to do is say the wake word, after which your Echo device will start recording the subsequent conversation. You can even retrieve these recordings from your application.

Alexa will display all the audio recordings it has made via the Echo device in your app. You can tap on any one of these audio files to listen to any sound or conversation you want. You can tally the time the conversation took place with the time of the recording to help track down the most relevant one.

Can Alexa hear everything you say?

Yes, Alexa can hear everything you say. Its microphone is on, letting the device analyze the audio around it. The Alexa Echo device does this to detect the trigger word quickly so that it can respond to your commands or requests promptly. However, this does not imply that Alexa is recording everything you say.

Recording and listening are two different things. Alexa is listening to you in search of the keyword; more like waiting for your command. It only starts recording after it detects the wake word in the audio it is listening to.

If you don’t wish for Alexa to hear you all the time, you can turn your Echo’s microphone off by pushing the button on the top of your smart device. Wait for the button to turn red, showing that the microphone has been turned off.

How to check if Alexa is recording conversations?

The Alexa Echo device starts recording whatever you say after it detects the wake word. A light indicator usually appears on the device, or you will hear an audible sound. However, due to a misinterpreted “wake” word, the device may start recording even when you don’t intend it. But, there’s a way to know what Alexa is recording.

Here’s what you need to do:

The interface in our attached screenshots may differ from yours, depending on the device. Regardless, you should be able to find all of the given options easily and follow each step successfully.

  • Open your Alexa application and open the menu bar.

The menu bar will be on the top left corner of your screen.

  • Open the settings.
  • Open Alexa privacy settings.

Among all the given options, you will find ‘Alexa Privacy.’ You may have to scroll all the way down and tap on the three-dotted lines to access the ‘More‘ options and see the Alexa Privacy tab.

  • Check your Alexa voice history.

Tap on the ‘Review Voice History’ option to gain access to the audio files Alexa has archived.

  • Sort through your history.

You will see the history of all recordings made by Alexa via your device(s). You can review them, listen to them and even delete them. Play around with the filters to refine your search.

  • Track unwanted recordings and conversations.

You may notice that some recordings have no title, but the text is written ‘Text not available- audio was not intended for this device’, or something similar. These audios are recorded due to a false wake or if the Alexa device had recorded you for a few more seconds even after it has answered you /granted your request.

Alexa displays this text because it determines that she was not being addressed even though the device had woken up. It would be good to review these recordings and even delete them if you find them unnecessary or irrelevant.

Can anyone else listen to me through Alexa?

Yes, it is possible for anyone with permission to listen to you through Alexa via the application’s new ‘Drop-In’ feature. The Alexa-enabled device and the third person’s device pair up, allowing both people to listen to the audio around the paired Echo device(s). This can be done with any Echo device.

Amazon introduced this latest feature to allow for more accessible communication between friends and families. Initially, it seeks permission from all users involved, but you don’t need to ‘answer’ any call for the devices to pair up after that. This exposes you to any malicious actions via any of the connected Echo devices.

Here is a useful article to help you play SoundCloud on your Alexa device!

Is Alexa always listening to me?

Yes, Alexa is always listening to you. Your Amazon Echo or other similar devices have built-in microphones that always listen to the sounds around them for the trigger, or wake, word.  However, this does not mean that the device is always recording you. Recording initiates only after the wake word is detected.

The company claims that this has nothing to do with the intention of spying on users. This feature aims to improve the efficiency and the effectiveness of the device to respond to your commands as quickly as possible.

Artificial intelligence employed in this voice assistant also gets to know the user better by gathering data and tracking it. It makes the Echo device smart enough to know the users’ preferences and other relevant information that would help it provide a better service as an assistant.

Should you unplug Alexa at night to avoid getting recorded?

Yes, we suggest that you should. Alexa may be activated during the night while you are asleep if it incorrectly interprets any background noise as the wake word. This could be a purring cat, a crying baby or a ringing phone- you never know. You may also be highly susceptible to malicious actions by hackers during the night.

Hackers may take advantage of your inattention at night to hack into your Echo device or gain access to your data during this time. Hackers who have already hacked into it may make changes to your device, such as download malicious skills or modify existing ones to their benefit.

Although all of this is plausible during the day as well, you may be at a greater risk at night as you may not notice something strange about your device or activities taking place within your Alexa application.

How can I stop Alexa from recording conversations?

Alexa is listening to you all the time but not recording. If you wish to stop Alexa from recording your conversations, keeping them saved in her cloud or using them for any research or development purposes, we have the fix for you.

Here are some easy steps you can follow to stop Alexa from recording your conversations:

  • Open your Alexa application.
  • Open the menu bar and tap on ‘Settings.’

Tap on the menu bar at the top left-hand side of your screen and open the settings from the drop-down menu.

  • Open Alexa privacy settings.

Scroll down and tap on ‘Alexa Privacy.’

  • Manage your Alexa data.
  • Review how and when Alexa can save your data.

Two essential sections will appear in front of you. First, review the ‘Voice Recordings’ section and ‘Choose how long to save recordings’.

You will have different saving options to choose from. If you wish to avoid keeping any record of your conversations in Alexa’s cloud, we suggest that you select the option ‘Don’t save recordings.’ To take another precaution, you could also delete everything daily by giving Alexa a deletion command (such as Alexa, delete all recordings from today).

  • Review how Alexa can use your data.

Scroll down to the section that says ‘Help Improve Alexa’. This section lets you control Alexa’s access to your data for research and development purposes. If you give Alexa access to your data, you agree to allow the Alexa team to listen to and use your data for the company’s purpose.

We consider this a significant privacy concern and advise that you switch off the ‘Use recordings’ button to cut off direct access to your voice commands or conversations and keep them private.

Can Alexa be hacked to listen to conversations?

Yes, there exists a potential for hackers to hack into your Amazon Alexa devices and gain access to personal data and even listen to already recorded or live conversations. These hacks are widely known, making users quite susceptible to a hack by an individual with malicious intent.

A few common ways Alexa can be hacked to listen to your pre-recorded or live conversations around the interactive device.

  • Hacking Voice History: This is a widespread and easy practice. The hacker sends a fraudulent link to the user, which, once clicked, gives the hacker access to the user’s voice history in the Alexa application. The hacker can use these audio files to create audio deep-fakes and even trick an audio verification system.
  • Using Hardware with Different Frequencies: Alexa Echos, and other smart devices, have been engineered and programmed to catch sounds that cannot be heard even by the human ears. This may allow hackers to use hardware with frequencies that would help them create some disturbance around your device. Using this disturbance, they can order your Alexa device to carry out any task.
  • Using a Laser: A smart speaker’s microphone can be activated using a laser. When the frequency of the laser light is varied and set to a particular value, the hacker can trick the speaker into transforming into an electrical signal. This means that they can sort of ‘speak’ to your Echo device and use different ‘light commands’ to get their orders followed.

Can Alexa record private conversations?

Yes, Alexa can record your private conversation even if you have not actually said the wake word. It may incorrectly interpret any word or sound in the background as the wake word and start recording the subsequent conversation as part of the entire process.

This has happened before, and Amazon has also admitted to the fault here. The company says that sometimes the device may mistake a word for the wake word. However, it is also claiming to work on improving this flaw and that the device has gotten better at interpreting words. 

Can Alexa recordings be used in court?

Yes, if the potential of substantial evidence is found in any recordings made by an Alexa-enabled smart device, these can be used in court. However, the court will consider all analyses made by experts in determining the legitimacy and authenticity of the recordings retrieved. A recent example of such a situation is the Hallandale murder case in 2019.

Amazon has clearly stated that it protects the privacy of all its users under all circumstances, and it would not give up any data until prompted by a binding, legitimate legal order. In the past, as Alexa recordings started arising as witnesses in criminal (and other cases), courts have been more particular about the authenticity of the evidence collected.

Some of the points considered by a judge when checking with experts include:

  • Clarity of the audio recordings.
  • Accuracy check of the data.
  • Tampering check of the device involved.

Concluding my thoughts!

We agree that Alexa has, without a doubt, earned an important place in many smart homes. However, we also felt the need to highlight some privacy concerns associated with any voice assistant- not just Alexa.

Can you use Alexa to spy on someone? Well, we’ve answered that for you in hopes of making you more aware of the technology you have brought into your home. Use this knowledge to your advantage, and beware of any cyber malpractices!

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