November 24, 2020

Alexagate is a gloriously unnecessary tool to stop Amazon Echo from listening

It appears to do the job, but there are much easier ways to stop Echo devices from listening.

alexagate echo jammer

Credit: Mschf
  • Mschf has released an Alexagate device that uses ultrasonic sound to block Amazon Echo microphones.
  • It appears to work, but it’s utterly unnecessary — and raises questions about why you have a speaker.

It’s understandable that you might be concerned about the privacy of Amazon Echo speakers and other devices that are always waiting for your command, but one solution to that privacy might be overkill.

Geekologie reports that the inventors at Mschf have released Alexagate, a $99 add-on device that jams the microphones on most Echo speakers. Place it atop your Echo and it uses seven ultrasonic speakers to neutralize the mics. You just need to clap three times to turn jamming on or off, and an indicator makes clear when Alexa isn’t listening.

It supposedly works well. Mschf claimed that it could only get through to Alexa by shouting, and then only from “six inches away.� In casual use, then, Alexa shouldn’t hear a thing.

See also: The best smart home devices you can buy

Alexagate is as much a statement about technology’s privacy intrusions as much as it is a shipping product, but it’s also completely unnecessary. These speakers have microphone mute buttons that are much cheaper to use — and if you don’t trust that button to prevent the Echo from listening, why do you have the speaker in the first place?

There’s also a question whether or not the concern is justified. Amazon, like other voice assistant creators, isn’t constantly recording conversations. The Echo waits for your keyword (such as “Alexa�) before it starts recording anything, and then only for the duration of the command. The worry is more that an Echo might mistakenly detect a keyword and inadvertently record conversation snippets. That’s a legitimate issue, but not necessarily one that warrants buying a gadget like Alexagate.