Publication Date: 5/14/17 – Confusion and frustration have been swirling all over the interwebs since Amazon rolled out the new Alexa communication features. A serious privacy flaw has been discovered, and my own tests have proven that the sync between your cell phone’s Contacts list and your Alexa contacts list isn’t working as it should. Today I’ll address the flaw in more detail and explain how to disable Alexa calling, at least until the fix is available.
I know this is normally the day I share Things To Ask Alexa, but this topic is urgent.
Alexa, We Have A Problem
After extensive testing with both an Android phone user and an iPhone user, I can confirm there is a serious issue with Alexa messaging, and this is a correction to last week’s post describing how the service works. That post still accurately describes how the service is supposed to work, but there’s a problem with it as of this writing (on 5/14/17).
Once Alexa communications is set up (the setup process is described in the post from last week, linked above) the Alexa app is supposed to keep its internal contacts list synced to your cell’s Contacts list. This would mean that deleting someone from your cell Contacts list would also delete them from your Alexa contacts list, but that’s not happening. And currently, there is no way to manually block or delete entries in your Alexa contacts list.
Some are reporting Amazon customer service tells them Amazon’s already working on a software update that will include caller blocking features, so however it’s ultimately resolved, the problem should be temporary. In the meantime, if you’d prefer to turn off Alexa communications entirely until the software update is released, read on.
How To Disable Alexa Calling (& Messaging)
1. Don’t grant Contacts permissions in the Alexa app.
The communications features are totally reliant on this permission, so denying it effectively turns communications features off. If you already have granted that permission, revoke it. I can’t address the specific steps for how to do this for every handset and version of Android or iOS out there, but the process is the same for changing permissions on any other app on your phone. If you don’t know how to change app permissions on your phone, do an internet search on:
[your phone name or operating system number (e.g., Android 5, iOS 10)] + change app permissions
Note that if you’ve already updated the app and previously granted the permissions, this step will not erase your Alexa contacts list or remove the menu items related to Alexa communications. If you try to make calls or send messages via Alexa though, you’ll be prompted to grant Contacts permissions. In my own tests this also prevented incoming calls and messages, but with so many different types of handsets, operating systems and such I can’t guarantee the same will be true for every other user.
2. If you want to completely remove / cancel / roll back Alexa communications capability after the app update, you will have to call Amazon and ask them to do it for you.
Use the Contact Us option in the Help & General Feedback form in the Alexa app, which will offer a ‘call me now’ option or email option. If you prefer, you can go through the Help links on the Amazon site to reach the Contact Us form.
I’m confident Amazon has its Alexa engineers working on this issue and will get it resolved as quickly as possible, but they’ll probably also want to be a little more thorough in their testing before the software update is released.