Voice assistants such as Google Assistant and Alexa record what you say after the word Wake in order to send it to the company’s servers. Companies keep your records until you delete them. Some companies allow you to disable this behavior: here’s how.
Voice assistants record you when they wake up
Voice assistants work directly. They constantly listen to everything you say, all day long. But the device in the room doesn’t have much intelligence. The only thing he can understand is the word «behind him»: Alexa, Hey Google, Hey Cortana, and so on.
As soon as it detects that word, it starts recording everything that follows it (and about a second after it thought it heard the word). The device sends the record to the company’s servers (Alexa, Google, etc.) to figure out everything else you said and then act on it.
But after executing your command, companies don’t necessarily delete your record. Instead, your spoken words are stored indefinitely to improve Voice Assistant results and define new features.
Some companies allow you to disable this behavior. And some don’t. Among those who do, disabling the recording will completely break the voice assistant, but this is not the case in all cases. We found out what you can do and what are the results.
Google is the leader in selection
Google is the only company that gives you the ability to use Google Assistant without having to keep your voice forever. And at the moment of leadership, this is now the default behavior for new users who have set up Google Assistant.
Existing users have entered into the old system of saving your voice recordings, but you can disable this. Disabling voice storage is as easy as going to Google’s Activity controls, turning off «Voice and Audio Data» and hitting «Pause».
Best of all, disabling voice storage doesn’t break Google Assistant or Google Home devices, so there’s no reason not to disable the feature if you don’t like the idea of big companies keeping copies of your voice.
Alexa doesn’t give you much choice.
Amazon does not offer an equivalent option for Google to prevent your voice recordings from being stored. If you use Alexa from any Echo device or Alexa app, your voice is processed and sent to the Amazon servers. Amazon keeps your records to improve Alex.
Your only options are to listen to your recordings and delete them, or stop using your Alexa-powered device. You can disable Echo devices, but this is not necessarily a permanent solution. If someone else noticed that the device was disabled and turned it back on, you’re back to where you started. And in any case, turning off the sound breaks the ability to use Alexa at all, defeating the point of device ownership.
Amazon provides a privacy dashboard where you can tell the company not to use your voice recordings to develop new features or improve transcription. Just click «manage how your data improves Alexa» and then turn off both toggles. But you’ll notice that this tells Amazon not to use your data for those two purposes; this does not prevent your records from being stored or used for any other purpose.