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

Red Google Home on a shelf.

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».

Google Voice and Audio toolbar with disabled mode.

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 Echo on the bedside table.

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.

Update A: Amazon now allows you to delete some entries with your voice as well.

Alexa privacy dashboard with

Hopefully Amazon will follow Google’s lead and come up with better options.

Cortana’s only option is the shutdown button

Harmon Kardon: Call the Cortana speaker on the kitchen table.

As with Amazon, Microsoft does not offer any option to ban the storage of voice recordings. You can only view and delete existing entries in your Microsoft account.

Microsoft Privacy control panel with Cortana entries.

Worse than Amazon, you can’t even limit how Microsoft uses your records. The only real option is to disable Hey Cortana altogether. In the search bar, type «Talk to Cortana», press «Enter», and then turn off «Hey Cortana».

If you are using a Cortana speaker, you will have to disable it. Of course, you are effectively giving up on Cortana entirely. Therefore, if you want to use Voice Assistant, for the time being, you must agree that Microsoft stores your voice recordings for its own purposes.

Siri at least deletes your entries when you turn it off

Home speaker on the cabinet.

Apple simultaneously gives you the easiest way to remove your entries and links for the least useful options to prevent entry in the first place.

As with Microsoft and Amazon, the only way to prevent Apple from storing your notes is to not use Siri at all. Using Siri is an agreement to allow Apple to use your voice recordings for any purpose it sees fit.

The good news is that instead of keeping track of the privacy dashboard, simply turning off Siri deletes your recordings from Apple’s server — as long as you turn off the power too.

To disable Siri Dictation, go to Settings > Siri and turn off Hey Siri and Siri. Click Turn Off on the prompt. Note that it is mentioned that records are still saved if the power is turned off.

Siri Preferences dialog with an arrow pointing to Siri switches and disable Siri prompt

Turn Dication off, go to Settings > General > Keyboards and disable dictation. Click Turn Off on the prompt. It will now confirm that the entries will be deleted. (If you do this in reverse, the warnings will be adjusted accordingly.)

Dictation settings dialog with arrows indicating toggle dictation on and off

Unfortunately, not all Voice Assistants are created equal. Siri aims to make your recordings easy to delete, but Google takes the crown for allowing you to prevent storage and still use Google Assistant. Hopefully they will learn from each other (or better, but openly steal from each other) and provide more granular control over your data.

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