Whether it's sharing the weather forecast, ordering groceries, or turning on smart lights, Alexa™, the personal assistant from Amazon™, makes everyday life a little easier. But unexpected mishaps have been known to happen. Has Alexa ever answered a question you never asked? Or turned on when it heard the wake word in a song or on TV? Or have you and your roommate ever been talking about a new movie during breakfast—while Alexa is off—only to discover later that day you're being served online ads for that very movie?
These questions lead to another: Is Alexa always listening?
At Asurion, our experts not only fix and protect your tech, but also work with you to make sure you know how to get the most out of your devices. Here's everything you need to know about Alexa listening to conversations.
Does Amazon Alexa listen all the time?
Alexa is an always-on listening device, which means it's technically always listening. But it's specifically listening for the wake word—which, by default, is set to “Alexa," though you can change it to “Computer," “Amazon," or “Echo." As soon as Alexa hears the wake word, a small light comes on and it starts doing its thing: listening to what you say, sending your request or command to the cloud to be analyzed, then delivering a response.
How to tell whether Alexa is listening
Still wondering, 'Does Alexa listen to my conversations?' Remember this: You'll hear a tone or see a light appear on your device whenever Alexa is listening to your requests. Amazon likens this to the “On the Air" signs that flash on and off in TV studios.
What is an accidental wake-up?
Technology isn't fool-proof, and sometimes Alexa goes rogue. Alexa is supposed to only start listening to your requests once it hears the wake word, but mix-ups do happen. If Alexa hears you say “a Lexus sedan" or the name “Lexa," there's a chance it could mistake it for your wake word. A handful of news reports have surfaced in recent years about Alexa recording audio and sending them to people without the user's permission.
So if “Alexa" sounds like a name you say at home a lot, change your wake word to one of the other options via Settings > Device Settings > [device name]. Once on the selected device's home screen, click the gear icon in the top-right corner, then choose Wake Word.
You can also change the wake word by using voice commands. Just say "Alexa, change your wake word," and choose from the list of options it gives you.
When does Alexa record?
Officially, Alexa records your voice anytime you speak directly to it. So if you haven't used your wake word, it shouldn't be recording you. But as you read above, accidental wakeups happen.
How to see what Alexa has listened to
Curious about what Alexa hears and records? You can review your voice history—which includes the stored record of your voice requests as well as audio from accidental wakeups—by visiting Alexa Privacy Settings or in the Alexa app via Settings > Alexa Privacy > Review Voice History. Once there, you can:
- Play audio sent to the cloud.
- Assess what Alexa thought you said and view Alexa's response.
- Delete recordings one at a time, by date, by device, or all at once. You can also set Alexa to delete recordings after 3 or 18 months, or opt out of saved voice recordings altogether.
How to stop Alexa from listening all the time
To prevent Alexa from listening, you can turn off the microphones. Simply press the microphone off button on your smart speaker, like an Echo™ or Dot®. A red light will appear on the device—that's how you know the microphones have been disconnected.
To use Alexa again, turn on the microphones by pressing the microphone button.
How to secure your Alexa and Amazon devices from hackers
There are a lot of ways to protect your tech, like using strong, unique passwords, creating a separate Wi-Fi network for your smart devices, and turning on two-factor authentication. Read our guide for our expert tips.