Tech Talk #182–June 25, 2022
If you use Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, or Google Assistant, your phone usually keeps and shares your voice recordings. As a result, there can be some pretty personal stuff in your requests to your assistant. Unfortunately, big tech companies have a checkered past about protecting and using our data responsibly. Here’s how to delete the recordings on your phone and turn off your assistant if you don’t want to use it or her.
Apple claims it randomizes all data collected by Siri, doesn’t connect any of it to your AppleID, and discards the data after six months. You don’t have to do anything if you’re okay with that. If you’d like to make sure Siri (and Apple) keeps as little information about you as possible, on your iPhone, open Settings, choose Siri & Seach, click Siri & Dictation History, and click Delete Siri & Dictation History.
You can disable Siri entirely by opening Settings, Siri & Search, and sliding all the toggles off.
We know Google collects a lot of data, and now you can see how much. Since Android phones vary in features and menus, it’s best to manage the Google Assistant from your Google account page. On your phone, open Chrome and type in myaccount.google.com. Login to your account. Choose Data & Privacy, scroll down to History Settings, and click on Web & App Activity. Under Auto-delete (Off), click on Choose an auto-delete option. For most people, three months is okay.
To disable the Google Assistant, uncheck the Include voice and audio activity checkbox right above Auto-delete. It won’t delete previously saved recordings, but it will stop new recordings from being saved.
While not as fully integrated into your phone as Siri and Google Assistant, Alexa also keeps voice recordings of your interactions.
Open the Alexa app on your phone, click More, Settings, and Alexa Privacy. Next, choose Review Voice History to review your voice history. If you only want to delete a few recordings, you can delete them here.
If you want to delete more than a few recordings, click Manage Your Alexa Data. You can choose to have recordings auto-deleted after three months or 18 months. Or you can select Don’t Save Recordings to delete all of them.
Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant all use the recordings of your interactions to train their assistants to work well for you, specifically by analyzing and recognizing your voice, what you said, and how the exchange went.
Turning off these recordings may make your interactions with your assistant less helpful, but the privacy trade-offs may be worth it to you.
Shutting down Windows
Did you know there are many ways to turn off a Windows computer?
The easiest way is to push the power button on the tower. You’ve probably been told (maybe by me?) not to use the power button to shut down your computer. But modern computers can intercept the power button and quietly do all the housekeeping Windows need to do before it shuts down.
Laptops need to be reminded what the power button is all about for this to work; otherwise, pushing the power button puts your computer to sleep.
You can also right-click the Start button and find shutdown options there.
Or, you know, you could click on the Start button, choose the power icon, and shut down from there.
The sky looked ominous, so I asked Siri, “Surely, it’s not going to rain today?”
And she replied, “Yes, it is, and don’t call me Shirley.”
That was when I realized I’d left my phone in Airplane mode.
Do you have a computer or technology question? Greg Cunningham has been providing Tehachapi with on-site PC and network services since 2007. Email Greg at email@example.com.