The items we buy say a lot about our lifestyles, our finances, and our domestic lives. If you have an Amazon account, the amount of data that the retail giant collects is astonishing.
With these different areas collecting data about you, if you are trying to maintain some semblance of your privacy, you’ll definitely want to check these five not-so-obvious settings.
1. Your “Amazon profile” is public, change that
We don’t often think of our “Amazon profile.” However, that’s precisely what it is. Your profile is created automatically, whether you want it or not, and it contains comments, ratings, public Wish Lists, biographical information, and other site interaction. This profile doesn’t include details on your purchases or your browsing history, but it’s very informative.
If you want to control what activity is visible on your public profile, do the following:
- Put your cursor on the “Account & Lists,” button and then click on “Your Account.”
- Scroll down to the “Ordering and shopping preferences” section. Click the “Profile” link, which is right above the social media preferences link.
- Click on the link in the orange box to the right that says, “Edit your profile.” Click the Edit privacy settings tab.
- You can select or deselect items like Reviews, Questions, Who You Follow, Public Wish Lists, Baby Registry, and others. To simplify this, there’s also a handy option to “Hide all activity on your profile,” which turns everything off at once.
It’s sometimes hard to tell what other people can see. If you want a quick look at what information you’re sharing publicly, click “View your profile as a visitor.” You can tell at a glance if you’re sharing anything you don’t want to out in the public arena
If your profile is showing your real name, or other biographical information you don’t want, go back to the profile settings page and click the Edit profile tab. It’s located right next to the Edit Privacy settings tab.
You can edit or delete any information like your Bio, Occupation, Location, and more. You can even change the “public name” on your profile and post reviews anonymously.
2. Listen and delete your Alexa recordings
If you own an Amazon Echo, you probably know its strange secret: the device records a lot of what you say. On the upside, Echo uses this voice data to improve its functionality and obey your command.
But still, it’s always listening. That’s kinda creepy.
So, if you are still asking Alexa only for the weather and music, here is a list of 21 Alexa commands you’ll use over and over. The downside: Echo doesn’t store recordings of your requests in the device itself but on Amazon’s servers. Those servers can be breached and all your information available.
Many people don’t realize you can review your voice log with the Alexa app on iOS and Android. The app allows you to scroll through your activity and listen to each recording.
It’s a bit tedious, but it’s possible to go back and listen to the very first command you’ve ever uttered to Alexa.
Whenever I check my settings, I am always surprised what Alexa saves that does not have the wake word in the snippet. If you say something just close to the wake word, Alexa will respond and record. Or if the word is casually mentioned in conversation or on a TV playing in the background, Alexa will wake up and start recording.
If you use Alexa on a regular basis and want to know how to take control and delete what is recorded, read this: TAKE CONTROL OF THE AMAZON ALEXA RECORDINGS OF YOUR VOICE
3. Make your lists private
There are two main “lists” on Amazon, the Shopping List, and the Wish List. Many people use their Wish Lists for gift ideas, but we often use Wish Lists as a log of items we don’t want to forget.
The trouble is, anyone in the world can find your Wish List by searching your name. Granted, if your name is “John Smith,” you may not be easy to pinpoint. But if strangers find out where you live, they may be able to deduce and identify your profile.
To check the privacy settings of your Amazon Lists:
- Click on the “Accounts & Lists” drop-down box then select “Shopping List” or “Wish List.”
- Now on this “Your Lists” page, click on three dots (next to “Share List”) then select “Manage List.”
- Here, you can change your list details like your list name, the name of the recipient, email, birthday and most of all, its privacy.
- To change the list’s privacy, simply click on and select “Private” on the drop-down box
- To change the list’s privacy, simply click on and select “Private” on the drop-down box.
4. Stop Amazon from tracking your browsing
Like almost any search engine, Amazon also tracks all your browsing activity by default. The company saves your searches, including items you recently viewed and product categories you browsed. All of this information helps Amazon create targeted ads. Although your browsing history is hidden from the public, it’s available not only to you, but also to anyone who works for Amazon or has access to Amazon computing systems. Some people may find this unsettling.
Here’s how to stop Amazon from tracking your browsing activity:
- Log in to your account at Amazon.com
- On the upper menu, click on “Your Browsing History.”
- On the next page, click on the “Manage history” drop-down arrow.
- Toggle “Turn Browsing History on/off” to Off
Note: You can also clear your entire browsing history here by clicking the “Remove all items” button
Meanwhile, you can also turn off personalized ads, which many customers find eerie and exasperating. Here’s how to turn off targeted ads on your browser:
- Go to “Your Account” page.
- Under “Email alerts, messages, and ads,” click “Advertising preferences”
- On this page, select “Do Not Personalize Ads from Amazon for this Internet Browser”
- Hit “Submit”
5. Control your Alexa purchases
Many people are starting to use Amazon’s purchasing power to order items directly through Alexa. It’s convenient to purchase items using only your voice. “Alexa, order more shampoo.” Yes, people really do that.
But I’d rather turn off my Echo’s Voice Purchasing option altogether and use Amazon’s website to shop. This process is much more direct and secure, and you reduce the odds of making a mistake.
Even more troubling is if you accidentally wake up Alexa and order something unintentionally. That’s happening and Amazon says it’s working on a fix.
Until then, turn it off or use a Purchasing PIN:
- Open your Alexa app.
- Tap Settings and scroll down.
- Tap Voice Purchasing and toggle “Purchase by voice” to Off.
If you still want the convenience (and the sci-fi vibe) of Echo voice purchasing, you should set up a PIN code to avoid unauthorized purchases.
To set it up:
- Go to the same Voice Purchasing settings page on your Alexa app.
- Toggle “Purchase by voice” to On.
- Toggle “Voice code” to On as well.
- This will prompt you to enter your 4-digit PIN code.
Once you have a Voice Code configured, the 4-digit code has to be spoken out to complete a purchase on your Echo.
Of course, anyone can listen in and reuse your code. A voice-purchasing PIN adds a veneer of security, but it’s hardly foolproof. As I said, I’d rather have Voice Purchasing set to off entirely.
Be Safe – Backup Your Data Regularly!
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