Courtesy of Amazon
By John Patrick Pullen
January 20, 2016

The saying, as it goes, is that an elephant never forgets. But an Amazon Echo — now that’s another beast entirely.

A wireless speaker with a voice-enabled virtual assistant, Amazon Echo is full of cloud-enabled smarts. Activated by saying the wake word “Alexa,” the Echo is an ideal kitchen companion, able to convert units of measurement, play Beatles music (if you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber), and even rattle off some Star Wars trivia simply by being asked.

But one thing Echo doesn’t do quite so easily is forget your commands. For that, you need to dig deeper.

But before you do, take into account how the Echo works. According to Kinley Pearsall, senior public relations manager for Amazon devices, the speaker can adapt to individual users’ speech patterns, vocabulary, and personal preferences over time. But to do that, it needs to store and analyze recordings of commands.

“It’s a long-term learning process, as the brain gets smarter and smarter in the cloud,” says Pearsall. Translation: The Echo stores your requests to help it recognize your specific voice. Deleting your recordings also erases any memory it has of your speech patterns, potentially making it less accurate.

On top of that, Echo isn’t listening to everything everybody says, all the time. “It’s listening only for the wake word, Alexa,” says Pearsall. “When it hears the wake word, it starts streaming audio to the cloud — and you’ll know it’s streaming to the cloud because the light ring (on the Echo’s crown) turns blue.” The Echo can also be set to play a short audible tone when the wake word is recognized, giving users a clue that the device is listening.

Still, privacy-minded users may want to clear house every now and again. And some Echo users on Reddit have said their speaker has become less adept at understanding them over time, and a memory wipe proved worthwhile. So, there may actually be a benefit to making Echo forget your voice beyond privacy.

If you want to delete your Echo recordings, there are two ways to go about it. You can either remove individual requests or delete your entire history en masse.

To remove individual recordings, open the Amazon Alexa app on your mobile device. In the sidebar, select settings, and then history. This pulls up a list of all the requests you’ve ever made of Alexa. You can even select them to hear the actual recording, if you please. But say that you were embarrassed to have asked to hear Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime.” Selecting that request will also pull up an option for deleting the recording. Tap or click on it, and it’s like it never happened.

To wipe Alexa’s entire catalog of your requests, visit the Amazon Connect and Devices website, a great resource for any of your Amazon associated gear, including Kindles. From there, select the “Your Devices” tab, then your Amazon Echo, then “manage voice recordings” and delete everything. And there you have it — a spotless Echo, full of nothing.

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