New Amazon Echo device? 8 Alexa Settings to Change Right Away


Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant is powerful, with plenty of features to make life more convenient 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 more useful on a smart speaker or smart display in your home. Echo speakers and Echo Show displays let you say “Alexa” and give voice commands without touching anything. It almost feels like magic.

It’s potentially black magic, though, especially if you’re concerned about your home’s privacy and security. Amazon can log everything you say to Alexa, and depending on your smart home devices, you might be sharing your Wi-Fi network with strangers without realizing it.

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

1. Disable or limit voice recordings

By default, Amazon logs everything you say to Alexa, to “enhance 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 Recordings Are Saved under Voice recordings.

Picking out Do not save recordings and press Confirm. Alexa won’t log any of your requests, just process them and let that data evaporate so no one else can use it.

screenshots: choose how long alexa data is saved

This will disable voice identification with Alexa, which can be a problem if you have multiple people in your household. Luckily, you can also ask Alexa to save recordings for three months. While you’re at it, check Enable voice suppressionso you can tell Alexa to delete anything you tell her.

2. Limit smart home device, detected sound history

Manage Your Alexa Data Screenshots

Alexa also records the status of Alexa-controlled smart home devices, and if you activate Alexa’s security features, it records sounds like glass breaking or smoke/CO alarms going off.

It’s a bit more useful than Alexa’s voice recordings, because if you want to check what access people may have had to your smart home devices, or listen to a suspicious sound that Alexa picked up yourself, you can do this via the Alexa Privacy menu by tapping Review Smart Home Device History and Examine the history of detected sounds.

You cannot disable these recordings, but you can limit them. By default, Alexa will keep them forever, although you can only view your smart home device’s history for the last 30 days.

In the Alexa app, go to More > Settings > Alexa Privacy > Manage your Alexa data > Choose how long recordings are saved (under Smart Home device history) > Save history for 3 months > Confirm. Do the same under History of detected sounds.

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 uncheck: Help improve Alexa. It sounds innocent, and the app warns that turning it off will hurt voice recognition and other features, but if you read the fine print, you’ll see that it allows Amazon to take any recordings you store and have them reviewed by a human. The idea is for the company to confirm that its AI is working properly and, in theory, it should improve Alexa’s accuracy. But if you’d rather a human not listen to you asking Alexa for the weather (or worse), turn it off.

In the Alexa app, go to More > Settings > Alexa Privacy > Manage Your Alexa Data. Scroll down to help improve Alexa and toggle the Use of voice recordings option disabled.

4. Enable Accessibility Features


If you have vision or hearing difficulties, or have speech issues, Alexa may provide limited assistance. In the Alexa app, go to More > Settings > Accessibilitywhere you can choose from four different accessibility features.

Notify nearby makes Echo devices play a notification sound when you approach them and Alexa has notifications for you. This is useful if you have vision difficulties that may cause you to miss the yellow notification light on your Echo.

real-time text and Call captioning are two mutually exclusive features for video calling on Echo Show devices. Real-time text provides an on-screen keyboard and displays text as you type it, while call captioning will automatically convert any speech detected by Alexa into on-screen text captions . They cannot be used at the same time.

Adaptive listening mode Makes Alexa wait longer for you to finish speaking before processing what you’ve said, and improves its ability to recognize different speech patterns, like stutters.

5. Turn off Amazon Sidewalk

Amazon sidewalk

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

You can turn it off in the Alexa app. Move towards More > Settings > Account Settings > Amazon Sidewalk. If it says On, press the button until it says Off. If it says Disabled, leave it alone. (If you don’t see the Sidewalk option, your Amazon device probably isn’t compatible with Sidewalk.)

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6. Disable (or secure) voice purchases

Voice purchases

Another feature that seems convenient but is just downright dangerous is voice purchasing, especially with Amazon’s default settings. Anyone Alexa recognizes around your devices can order anything from your account when asked; it will be purchased and shipped via 1-click ordering. Using Alexa to order products with your voice sounds useful, 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, go to More > Settings > Account Settings > Voice Purchases > Purchase Orders. Select Person (disable voice purchase), which will prevent Alexa from taking voice commands. If you want to make voice purchases, you can also set Alexa to only process them after you say a four-digit voice code by selecting Anyone with a voice code.

7. Set up family profiles (and protect child profiles)


If you have more than one person in your household, you can set up individual profiles for each so Alexa tracks their preferences, contacts, and notifications differently. Alexa can learn to identify everyone based on their voice (if you let Alexa record 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 and saying “Alexa, get to know me.” Alexa will guide them through setting up their profile and learning their Voice ID. For the kids in your household, though, you’ll want to do this for them and set some parenting features in the process.

In the app, go to More > Settings > Your profile and family > Add someone else. Enter their first name, select “Child” and enter their date of birth. After that, tap the profile in the Your Profile & Family menu and follow the instructions to set limitations on the profile and teach Alexa her voice ID (you’ll want the child to be in the room for this step).

8.Set up your music and podcast services


You don’t have to rely on Amazon Music and Audible for your Alexa-controlled audio content. Alexa supports several third-party services, including Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, SiriusXM, Spotify, and Tidal. So you can ask Alexa to show your favorite playlists, stations or podcasts.

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

If your preferred service is not in this list, tap Link a new servicee and see if it appears in the context menu. If so, follow the instructions from there. If not, Alexa doesn’t support it and you can’t access it with voice command. It’s a limited selection, but at least it’s not just for Amazon!

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