Ever since George Orwell’s classic assertion that “Big Brother is watching you,” people have been paranoid about the government listening in on our private conversations.

In his book 1984, the spying devices were television screens in the home. But has that technology now left the realm of science fiction and become a reality?


As we invite in more and more Internet-linked technology, are we opening ourselves up to spying? The answer may surprise you.

In fact, your electronic devices, including personal assistants such as Alexa and Google Assistant, may be listening to (and recording) your conversations.


Amazon Echo already has a recoding claim against it.

A recent case involved Danielle from Portland, Oregon, and her Amazon Echo. According to Danielle, her conversation was recorded by the Echo and then emailed to a business associate of her husband. Although Amazon claims that this cannot happen, they do acknowledge that the event occurred.

Amazon states that the device is waiting for you to say the activating word “Alexa.” According to Amazon’s theory of what happened, the device registered something that sounded like “Alexa”, so it activated and began recording. It then registered something else that sounded like “Send Message” coupled with the business associate’s name and that explains why it was emailed.

Although this may sound like the perfect storm of coincidences, this currently seems to be the only theory as to how this could have occurred outside of the really scary alternative—that Alexa is recording you and that someone could potentially hack your stored messages.


Electronic assistants and how they work.

What we do know about assistants such as this is that they are constantly recording one to two second snippets of conversation. If the trigger word (“Alexa” or “Siri” for example) is heard, then the request from the customer is recorded and stored.

If no trigger word is heard, the snippet is recorded over by the next one to two second recording. Basically, it’s a continuous loop of recording and deleting until the trigger word is registered. But these devices are not 100% perfect and the recording can be triggered by something that sounds like the trigger word.

Even commercials for the devices could potentially trigger the recording. Once this starts, the device will keep waiting for what it understands as a command. So, you could potentially have whole conversations stored on your device and not even realize it. Once it finishes recording, this is then stored in the “cloud” so that it can become part of the algorithm for repeated commands.


How do you protect yourself without having to throw out your electronic devices?

With Alexa, you can start by clicking on the Alexa app and going to the Settings menu. For each Alexa account that you have, you can click on Privacy where you’ll be able to see a list of everything that Alexa has ever recorded.

You can then clear your history, much like you might clear the history of your web browser. If you wish, you can also do this from your computer or laptop.

With Google Assistant, you do the same thing. Log in to your Google Account and click on your profile. Find “Personal Info & Privacy” and then “Manage Your Google Activity.” You should be able to find the “Review Activity” section which will allow you to review and delete your recordings.

If you are using a personal assistant designed specifically for your brand of smartphone, just check out the Privacy section under settings and you should be able to clear it out.


Protecting yourself and your personal data is important.

In today’s tech-driven society, privacy has become a major concern. With data breaches becoming an almost common occurrence, it is important to protect yourself. By taking these simple steps to review your data, you can ease your mind about this area of your privacy.

Radius Bridge wants you to be aware and proactive in protecting your personal information.  Find out more about us and how we’re protecting businesses every day.