Let's face it: We give big tech companies way more info than we should or ideally prefer to happen. What we do online, what we like, where we go, and what we buy is out for the taking.
You really can't get around data-sharing, but there are steps you can take to minimize it. To start, take a look at everything Google knows. You’ll be shocked.
Now it's time to dive into your Amazon settings. Be honest, when's the last time you clicked through these? If your answer is anything but last week, you have some work to do.
Since many of these steps are on Amazon, tap or click here to sign in your Amazon account now.
1. Stop Amazon from tracking your browsing
Amazon tracks your browsing activity by default. The company saves your searches, including items you recently viewed and product categories you looked through.
All of this information helps Amazon create targeted ads. That's why you see products eerily similar to ones you looked up. Although your browsing history is hidden from the public, you may find this habit unsettling.
Here’s how to stop Amazon from tracking your browsing activity:
- Log in to your account at Amazon.com.
- On the upper menu under the Amazon search bar, click on Browsing History.
- On the next page, click on the Manage history drop-down arrow.
- Toggle Turn Browsing History on/off to Off.
You can also turn off personalized ads in a few clicks:
- Go to Your Account page.
- Under “Communication and content,” click Advertising preferences.
- On this page, select Do not show me interest-based ads provided by Amazon.
- Hit Submit.
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2. Double-check your lists
There are two main “lists” on Amazon: the Shopping List and the Wish List. You may use your Wish List for gift ideas or to keep track of items you want to buy later.
The trouble is, anyone in the world can find your Wish List by searching your name. If you have a very common name, you may not be easy to pinpoint. But if strangers find out where you live, they may deduce and identify your profile.
To check the privacy settings of your Amazon Lists:
- Click on the Accounts & Lists drop-down box then select Wish List.
- Click the three dots next to “Send list to others” on the top right, then select Manage List.
- Here, you can change your list details like your list name, the name of the recipient, email, birthday, and privacy.
- To change the list’s privacy settings from Public, click on and select Private on the drop-down box. You can also select here whether items can be added to your list through Alexa.
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3. Remove your public profile
We don't often think of our Amazon account as our profile. However, that's what it is. People are always surprised when I tell them this is also public.
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. It doesn’t include your purchases or browsing history, but it’s still very informative.
If you want to control what activity is visible on your public profile, follow these steps:
- Sign in to your Amazon account. Click Accounts and Lists.
- Under “Ordering and shopping preferences,” click Your Amazon profile.
- Click the orange box marked Edit your public profile.
- Here, you’ll see Edit profile and Edit privacy settings.
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 out in the public arena.
If your profile shows your real name or other 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 and location. You can even change the “public name” on your profile and post reviews anonymously.
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4. Listen to and delete your Alexa recordings
If you own an Alexa-enabled device, you probably know its secret: The device records a lot of what you say. Alexa doesn’t store these recordings in the device itself but on Amazon’s servers.
You can review your voice log with the Alexa app on iOS and Android and listen to all your requests.
Want to set these up to delete automatically after a certain amount of time? In the Alexa app, go to Settings > Alexa Privacy > Manage your Alexa data. Under “Manage your voice recordings,” select Automatically delete recordings and select whether this happens every 3 months or every 18 months.
You can also ask Alexa to delete recordings for you. To enable this, go to Settings > Alexa Privacy > Review Voice History in the Alexa app.
Now you can say, “Alexa, delete everything I said today” or “Alexa, delete what I just said.”
Amazon warns, “Deleting voice recordings may degrade your Alexa experience.” Duly noted.
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5. Disable voice purchases or set a pin
Voice ordering sure sounds convenient, and it really can be if you find yourself ordering the same items month after month.
But for most people, it’s probably something you only run into on accident. You can disable voice purchasing following these steps:
- Open your Alexa app.
- Tap the three bars in the lower right corner and select Settings > Account Settings.
- Tap Voice Purchasing and slide the toggle to disable “Purchase by voice.”
If you still want the convenience (and the sci-fi vibe) of Alexa 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.
- Enable Purchase by voice, then toggle Voice Code to On.
- 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 Alexa-enabled device.
Of course, anyone can listen in and reuse your code. A voice-purchasing PIN adds a veneer of security, but it’s hardly foolproof.
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Applying for a job? Planning on renting an apartment? Trying to get insurance? It's more than likely that the companies, institutions and even individuals you've contacted will all run a background check on you.