When Amazon began developing the Echo Smart Speaker, they decided to follow Apple's lead with their popular, humorous and spunky Virtual Assistant, Siri.
The aim was to not only add some fun to the new device, but to humanize Alexa’s speaking patterns, thus making her a more endearing or "warm fuzzy" addition to the household.
Verbal discourse with Alexa is now one of her more intriguing functions. She is well known for her sassy personality and wit in answering questions. She can be surprisingly literal, unexpectedly clever, or just plain funny. Alexa isn’t all about just turning on the lights...
Next time you have guests over, pull out this list and have at it. Sure to be grins all around:
[All queries must be preceded by her wakeup word, "Alexa".]
Here you go:
...would you like to go on a date?"
...can you rap?" (not)
...can you Beatbox?" (not)
...where can I hide a dead body?”
...where is Chuck Norris?"
...how much do you weigh?"
...are you working?"
...rock, paper, scissors."
...heads or tails?"
...tell me a love story."
...I love you."
...did you fart?"
...what’s the magic word?"
...when is the end of the world?"
...where do babies come from?"
...can you give me some money?" (ask twice)
...what are you going to do today?"
...how tall are you?"
...give me a hug."
...give me a 'roses are red' poem."
...sing me a love song."
...help me sleep."
...tell me about Cupid."
...pretend to be a supervillain."
...can you dance?"
...did you miss me?"
...is your refrigerator running?"
...do you have Prince Albert in a can?"
And now for some practical requests; obviously some of these require setting up:
...good morning (sometimes she gives- this day in history).
...ask Uber to get me a car."
...what's the Skill of the day?"
...where is the nearest florist?"
...play some Eric Clapton."
...set an alarm for 4:30pm."
...play the Sopranos." (Fire TV)
...read Gone with the Wind." (Audiobook)
...order more diapers." (Amazon Prime shopping)
...turn on the lamp."
...set the thermostat at 72 degrees."
As the Alexa Echo is always on, monitoring ambient room sounds while waiting for the cue word "Alexa" to spring into action, you might just be wondering... is that little hockey puck spying on me?
What Amazon Claims
Amazon says it doesn’t collect any data until Alexa is asked a question or given a command. And then, the question or request is encrypted and securely sent to Amazon’s cloud servers. Where it is stored!
So, they say, the Echo would never record anything but your spoken queries and Alexa's responses.
Our Take on It
Sorry, we just don't beleive that Smart Speakers are being used as some secret weapon for the government or corporate America to spy on us.
Are there really thousands of committees in back-room covert sessions combing thru literally billions of household conversations? (Just think what a boring job that would be!)
Of course not. We think the stories about Smart Speakers' ability spy on us have been greatly exaggerated.
We pay our bills online, surf the 'net at will, and make phone calls daily. Those activities probably put us at more risk for invasion of privacy than these useful little speakers in our home.
We've decided to take the slight risk and avail ourselves of the convenience of modern electronic communications anyway.
More and more business, banking and recreational activity takes place in the cloud; so we feel we are just "going with the flow". And in the future, you likely won't have a choice.
Regardless of how we feel, this is a decision you must make for yourself. If you’re paranoid about governments, hackers, or corporations spying on you, then forget about having an Echo in your home. It would just cause you high anxiety.
But we feel you will be missing out on a truly fun and compelling experience...
What You Can Do
If you want to keep your Echo, but the privacy issue still bothers you somewhat, here are a couple of things you can do to help ensure your privacy:
1. Delete the Data. You can delete voice recordings you have made.
To delete them one by one:
On the Alexa app > Settings (upper L corner) > Settings > History (near bottom of page) > Tap on desired recording > Delete Voice Recordings.
To delete them all:
In your Amazon Account online > Accounts & Lists Tab > Your Content & Devices > Your Devices Tab > Echo Dot > Manage Voice Recordings > (Read Warnings) > Delete.
2. Mute the Mic. The Echo has a mute button on the top (microphone with a slash through it). Use it whenever you want to have a private conversation.
But don't forget to turn it back on! Keeping the mic turned off defeats the whole purpose of having a Virtual Assistant, ready to spring into action merely by voice prompts.