New Amazon Echo device? 8 Alexa Settings to Change Instantly

Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant is powerful, with plenty of features to make life easier for you and your family. It can tell you your schedule, control your smart home devices, play music, and even let you make voice and video calls.

You can use Alexa with your smartphone, but it’s especially useful on a smart speaker or smart display in your house. Echo speakers and Echo Show displays let you say “Alexa” and give voice commands without touching anything. It almost seems like magic.

It’s potentially dark magic, though, especially if you’re concerned about your household’s privacy and security. Amazon can store anything you say to Alexa, and depending on your smart home devices, you could be share your WiFi network with strangers without realizing it.

The Alexa app for Android and iOS lets you change these settings, but you need to find them first. Here’s what to do with Alexa before using it at home.

1. Disable or restrict voice recordings

screenshots of alexa app navigate to alexa privacy settings

By default, Amazon saves everything you tell Alexa to “improve the customer experience”. Luckily you can turn it off completely† In the app, tap More > Settings > Alexa Privacy > Manage your Alexa data > Choose how long you want to keep recordings under Voice recordings.

To elect Do not save recordings and tap Confirm. Alexa doesn’t record any of your requests, just processes them and vaporizes that data so no one else can use it.

screenshots: choose how long you want to keep Alexa data

This will disable Voice ID with Alexa, which can be a problem if you’ve done that several people in your household† Fortunately, you can also choose to have Alexa recordings stored for three months. While you’re there, check Enable voice deleteso you can tell Alexa to delete anything you tell it.

2. Limit the Smart Home device, the history of detected sounds

Manage your Alexa Data screenshots

Alexa also records the status of smart home devices controlled by Alexa, and turning on Alexa’s security features will record sounds like breaking glass or smoke/CO alarms that go off.

This is slightly more convenient than Alexa voice recordings, because if you want to check if people have accessed your smart home devices, or listen to a suspicious sound that Alexa picked up on its own, you can do this from the Alexa Privacy menu by clicking to tap Review Smart Home Device History and View history of detected sounds

You cannot disable these recordings, but you can limit them. By default, Alexa saves them forever, even though you can only view your smart home device’s history from the past 30 days.

In the Alexa app, navigate to More > Settings > Alexa Privacy > Manage your Alexa data > Choose how long you want to keep recordings (under Smart Home Device History) > Keep history for 3 months > Confirm† Do the same below History of sounds detected

3. Don’t let Amazon employees listen to you

Amazon Alexa App Screenshots: Using Voice Recordings

The Alexa Privacy menu has another important setting you’ll want to disable: Help improve Alexa† It sounds harmless, and the app warns that disabling it will harm speech recognition and other features, but if you read the fine print you’ll see that Amazon can record any recordings you save and have a human review it. The idea is to have the company confirm that its AI is working properly and, in theory, should improve Alexa’s accuracy. But if you’d rather not have a human listen to you, ask Alexa about the weather (or worse), turn it off.

In the Alexa app, navigate to More > Settings > Alexa Privacy > Manage your Alexa data† Scroll down to help improve Alexa and enable the Using Voice Recordings option off.

4. Enable Accessibility Features

Amazon Alexa

If you’re having trouble seeing or hearing, or are dealing with any kind of speech impediment, Alexa can provide limited help. In the Alexa app, navigate to More > Settings > Accessibilitywhere you can choose from four different accessibility features.

Notify me when nearby let Echo devices play a notification sound when you approach and Alexa has notifications for you. This is useful if you have vision problems that can make you miss the yellow notification light on your Echo.

Real-time text and Call Subtitles are two mutually exclusive characteristics for video calls on Echo Show devices† Real Time Text provides an on-screen keyboard and displays text as you type it, while Call Captioning automatically converts any speech that Alexa detects into on-screen text captions. They cannot be used at the same time.

Adaptive Listening Mode makes Alexa wait longer for you to finish talking before processing what you’ve said, and improves its ability to recognize various speech patterns, such as stuttering.

5. Turn off Amazon Sidewalk

Amazon sidewalk

Amazon sidewalk is a “shared network that helps devices work better.” It extends coverage for several Ring devices and some other Alexa-enabled products, but does so by sharing some of your bandwidth with other nearby Amazon users. It basically turns part of your internet connection into a Mesh network to everyone around you, and that could potentially open up your home network and devices to hacking.

You can disable it in the Alexa app. Navigate to More > Settings > Account Settings > Amazon Sidewalk† If it says Enabled, tap the button until it says Disabled. If it says Disabled, leave it. (If you don’t see the Sidewalk option, your Amazon device is probably not Sidewalk compatible.)

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6. Disable (or Secure) Voice Purchases

voice purchases

Voice purchasing is another feature that sounds useful but is just plain dangerous, especially with Amazon’s default settings. Anyone who recognizes Alexa near your devices can order something from your account upon request; it is purchased and shipped via 1-click order. Using Alexa to order products with your voice sounds convenient, but are you really going to do it so often that the convenience outweighs the risk(Opens in a new window)

In the Alexa app, navigate to More > Settings > Account Settings > Voice Purchases > Purchase Controls. Select Nobody (disable voice purchases), which prevents Alexa from taking voice commands. If you want to make voice purchases, you can also set Alexa to only process them after you’ve spoken a four-digit voice code by selecting Anyone with a speech code

7. Set Up Family Profiles (and Protect Kids Profiles)

Amazon Alexa

If you have more than one person in your household, you can set up separate profiles for each so Alexa keeps track of their preferences, contacts, and notifications differently. Alexa can learn to identify everyone based on their voice (if you let Alexa save your voice recordings), and even based on their face with a compatible Echo Show smart display.

Any adult can set up their own profile in your home by talking to an Echo or other Alexa device saying “Alexa, get to know me”. Alexa guides them through configuring their profile and learning their Voice ID. However, for kids in your household, you want to do it for them and set some parental features in the process.

In the app, navigate to More > Settings > Your profile & family > Add someone else. Enter their first name, select “Kid” and enter their date of birth. Then tap the profile in the Your Profile & Family menu and follow the instructions to set any restrictions on the profile and teach Alexa their Voice ID (you’ll want the child in the room for this step).

8.Set up your music and podcast services

Amazon Alexa

You don’t have to rely on Amazon Music and Audible for your Alexa-driven audio content. Alexa supports multiple third-party services including Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, SiriusXM, Spotifyand Tideso you can ask Alexa to bring up your favorite playlists, stations, or podcasts.

In the Alexa app, navigate to More > Settings > Music & Podcasts† Tap the desired service and select Enable to use. From there, follow the instructions to link your account to Alexa. If it doesn’t immediately walk you through the process, tap Settings and follow the prompts.

If your preferred service is not in that list, tap Link new servicee and see if it appears in the popup menu. If so, follow the instructions from there. If not, Alexa won’t support it and you won’t be able to access it with voice control. It’s a limited selection, but at least it’s not just for Amazon!

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