Protecting Your Privacy

How consumers can secure their voice assistants

By Colleen Donnelly

voice assistant device with the mute button lit up

Any conversation about voice assistant technology would be incomplete without a discussion of privacy. By nature, voice assistants have to collect data to do their jobs—but how can users make sure their data is safe?

Brett Frischmann, JD, the Charles Widger Endowed University Professor in Law, Business and Economics, recommends starting with guidance that the Federal Trade Commission published in 2022 about how consumers can secure their voice assistants and protect their privacy. 

A respected thought leader on intellectual property and technology law, Professor Frischmann summarizes the FTC recommendations and offers some additional insights:

Know how it works.

“You don’t need to be an expert on the technology—a basic understanding can go a long way in making you more aware of the privacy and security issues.” 

Know when it’s listening.

“Is the voice assistant’s microphone on or off? You can change that default, and you can also change the wake word so the voice assistant isn’t accidentally triggered by a word that you use often. One thing people don’t often realize is that you can log in through a browser or app, and change your default settings to better match your comfort level.” 

Check the privacy policy.

“Privacy policies, in general, are far too long and hard to understand for most people, but skimming through it can give you a general sense of what information is being collected and if and how it is being shared.” 

Delete old recordings from the cloud.

“The ‘cloud’ essentially means someone else’s computer—in this case, the manufacturer of the voice assistant you’re using. You can delete old recordings or set a limit on how long those recordings are stored.” 

Lock down your login and use multi-factor authentication, when available.

“A voice assistant, especially on a home device, is an important account—treat it with the same level of caution you would a bank account.”

Know which accounts are connected to your voice assistant.

“It might be convenient to be able to use your voice assistant to shop, read your emails aloud or listen to music from a subscription streaming service, but do you want everyone with access to your voice assistant to be able to do those things? You don’t need to rely on a voice assistant just because it’s available. Make conscious decisions about which accounts you connect to and interact with via a voice assistant.” 

Secure your router.

“Your voice assistant—and a number of other devices in your home—are wirelessly connected to the internet via your router. As the entry point to your home, keeping your router more secure keeps your voice assistant more secure.”


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