Can Home Assistants Compromise Your Privacy?

By Tracey Dowdy

Last year, police in Bentonville, AR requested Amazon Echo voice recordings, transcripts and other information connected to the device as part of a murder investigation. That, of course, raises the question: “Are home assistants like the Echo and Google Home recording your private conversations?”

Relax. Privacy violations aside, the volume of data that would constantly be streaming would easily overwhelm Amazon and Google’s servers. Remember, the Echo begins recording when it hears “hot words.” Although it still “hears” you when other words are used, it isn’t capturing those conversations or uploading them to Amazon’s servers.

Of course, there’s always the possibility it could capture parts of a random conversation if it picks up a hot word. If you’re concerned about what your Echo may have recorded, you can easily check on your conversations using the Alexa smartphone app. The app lists all your recent voice requests and has playback capability so you can listen to individual recordings.

If you discover something you would like to delete, erasing it from your history is simple.

To listen to your history:

Launch the Alexa app on your phone

  • Go to Settings
  • Select History
  • Select the recording
  • Choose Play

If it’s something you don’t want stored, choose Delete. This action erases the recording stored in the Cloud as well as Home screen cards connected to the recording. If you only want to remove the Home screen card, select Remove Card from the Home screen.

If you don’t want any of your past voice commands stored, mass deletion is your best option.

  • Go to amazon.com/mycd which opens the Manage Your Content and Devices page
  • Select Your Devices
  • Select your Echo from the list of devices
  • Select Manage Voice Recordings
  • Select Delete

If you’re concerned about random conversations being recorded, the easiest way to avoid this is to turn off the microphone. Of course, that defeats half the purpose of having that immediate on-demand service you probably bought the Echo for in the first place.

As far as the warrant for the Echo data in the murder case, Amazon declined to turn over any of the information that had been streamed and stored to its servers, but it did give police the accused’s account details and purchase history. Police were able to pull some information off the speaker and by using this information, along with information taken from other tech devices like the water meter, they were able to piece together a timeline of activity for the night in question.

Similar to the request for Apple to unlock an iPhone in the San Bernardino case, it will be interesting to see how tech companies continue to draw the line between an individual’s right to privacy and the needs of law enforcement.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

Friday, May 4: Looking Forward to Mother’s day

MOBILE LIVING TWITTER CHAT

mobileliving

When: TODAY, Friday, May 4, 2018
3:00 – 4:00 pm ET
12:00 – 1:00 pm PT

‘Looking Forward to Mother’s Day’

Join @TheOnlineMom and the MobileLiving team at 3 pm ET (12 noon PT) on Friday, May 4 as we look forward to Mother’s Day!
Mother’s Day is just around the corner and it’s time to show Mom just how much we appreciate her! Join us as we share stories on what makes our moms so special, and offer a few gift suggestions to help celebrate the big day!
RSVP and attend the party for a chance to win a Samsung Wireless Charging Stand or a $100 Verizon Gift Card!

(Click here to learn more about our Twitter chats. You must RSVP and attend the party to be eligible for a prize.)

To RSVP:
  1. Email RSVP@theonlinemom.com (subject line: MobileLiving) and include your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed: https://bit.ly/2wckcYH
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#MobileLiving) this Friday, May 4 between 3 – 4 pm ET
  4. Tell your Twitter followers!
PRIZE WINNERS will be announced during the Party!

What To Do With Your Old iPhone

By Tracey Dowdy

If you’re like me, your iPhone functions less as a phone and more as your brain’s literal external hard drive. Cell phone providers continue to improve their plans and offer incentives to get you to upgrade your phone. If you take advantage of the offer, what do you do with your old phone? Sometimes turning it in means a discount off the new phone, but that’s not your only option.

  • The obvious first choice is to keep it as a back-up. As long as it works, this is a great option. Your social media, calendars, iMessages, etc. are already synced and logged in, so it’s a simple matter of swapping out the SIM card and you’re ready to go until the new phone is repaired or replaced.
  • Use it as a Roku Remote. Recent updates to the Roku app means the screen looks like the actual remote. They’ve added a “What’s On” tab to make finding what you want to watch easier, and a Channels screen for quick, one-tap access to all your favorite shows.
  • Pair your old phone with any of the video doorbells that are on the market for an additional security camera. The Canary Flex, August Doorbell CamDoorBird Video Door StationRing Video Doorbell and SkyBell Video Doorbell have all been reviewed on CNET.
  • Make the most of Siri. Simply by connecting the phone to a Bluetooth speaker. If you use Apple Music, Siri will open your playlists or podcasts if you have the Apple Podcasts app. Siri can’t make other streaming music services like Tidal or Spotify play, but is compatible with Pandora.
  • DIY a VR headset. So far, Google is the star of the Virtual Reality show but pairing your old phone with iPhone-compatible VR goggles – you can get them on Amazon – and pair them with any of the VR apps and games available in iTunes.
  • Do some good. Verizon’s Hope Line wipes, refurbs, and provides free phones to women in shelters escaping from domestic violence. Cell Phones for Soldiers accepts used phones and provides both devices and minutes for men and women serving in the military. Phones donated to Hope Phones enable rural health clinics to better manage patient records, diagnose in the field, and facilitate communication.

There are loads of other options – a spare alarm clock, white noise machine, even a dedicated e-reader. The possibilities are endless!

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

My #YamahaReface Contest

WIN MY #YAMAHAREFACE CONTEST

 

DATES:  Contest begins 12pm ET on Monday May1 and ends at 11:59 pm on May 9th.

Winners are selected at random. 

You must be 18 or older to enter and reside in the United States or Canada. No purchase necessary. 

Void where prohibited by law.

This contest and promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Instagram. By entering you agree to release Instagram, Yamaha Music USA and OM Media Group from any and all liability associated with this contest.

OM Media Group.