“OK, Google.” With this simple voice command, the Google Home smart speaker sprung to life in a recent Super Bowl ad for Mountain View’s virtual assistant. To the surprise of many viewers, so did the Google Home in their own living room. OK, indeed. Just one more reminder that virtual assistants, capable of turning on lights or putting together playlists or making purchases online, are also spies in our very own homes.
In fact, their gift for listening in on conversations and keeping them on file can make them a good helper for solving crimes as well. The local police in a US town asked Amazon if it would allow them to access the information of an Amazon Echo. The smart speaker may have stored information that could help clear up some points of their ongoing investigation. Ultimately, such a device will record anything that happens if prompted, and we’ve seen that sometimes its owner is not the only one to wake it up from its dormant state (OK, Google…). So, it begs the question: how can you wipe its memory?
Deleting the memory of Alexa and Google Assistant
Alexa, the virtual assistant that only speaks English (for now), is the brain of the Amazon Echo. She will be the brain behind other products, as well, it seems. In the last Consumer Electronic Show, Lenovo presented an affordable device that works with Alexa, and Huawei will integrate it into its Mate 9 smartphones. In order to protect our privacy, it will come in handy to know how to delete the information they keep squirrelled away on their servers.
For Alexa, you can do it either from the app itself, available for Android and iOS, or from the website. It’s as simple as going to Settings, History. From there, you can select the files you wish to delete permanently (or the, um, evidence you wish to destroy). From the website the process is slightly different, but just as simple. Just go to the menu that allows you to manage your content and devices. From there, select the Amazon Echo and request to delete recordings.
The procedure is similar for deleting data from Google Assistant, the virtual assistant that for now is only available for Google Home, Android Wear, Google Allo, and the Google Pixel. From My Activity, the page that allows you to see an overview of your activity on Google’s various services, you can filter results to only see the data kept by your virtual assistant, or Voice and Audio services. Once there, you can either delete all the files at once, or just start clicking away and have a field day deleting them one by one.
In culling as much information on us as possible, the obvious goal of these virtual assistants is to offer more personalized services. But it’s nice to know that the dirt they have on you can be swept under the rug without any hassle.