Google Spying: Voice Assistant Records and Keeps Conversations You Have Around Your Phone
You would be forgiven for thinking that your private conversations were just that, but Google’s Voice Assistant could be recording everything you say.
The feature is designed to allow users to talk to enabled gadgets to search the web, launch apps and use other interactive functions.
As part of this process, Google keeps copies of clips made each time you activate it, but it has emerged that background chatter could be enough to trigger recording.
The Mountain View firm has been keen to push its Voice Assistant in recent weeks, which was a headline feature at the launch of a range of new Pixel smartphones and Home smart speakers in October. It is also enabled on a large number of handsets running the Android operating system, developed by the Google.
MailOnline has received a number of transcripts of conversations that show how Voice Assistant may be recording your conversations without you knowing. One example from an anonymous user appears to have registered the code to their back door entry system, while chatting with a friend. A written transcript of the conversation said: ‘If you ever get booked down to my house for some reason the key safe for the back door is 0783.’
Another user’s conversation about technology appears to have been captured, without them realising the assistant was recording. They said: ‘Mate. We’re living in the future. I’ve just installed a game through the Steam app remotely on my PC in London from my phone.’
Another clip from the same person appears to have captured them saying ‘F*** off’ to someone.
Google previously released a My Activity feature that reveals exactly how much information the company has collected about you, through your activities online. What some people may be unaware of is that the Voice and Audio section includes recordings of your voice. These are made when you trigger the voice assistant, which may happen inadvertently during conversations or by pressing buttons on a Voice Assistant enabled device without realising it.
A spokesman for the firm said: ‘We only process voice searches after the phone believes the hot word “OK Google” is detected.
‘Audio snippets are used by Google to improve the quality of speech recognition across Search.’
They added that ambient recording is never transmitted to the cloud.
Google’s support site says that the firm records your voice and other audio, plus a few seconds before, when you use audio activation. This includes saying commands like ‘OK Google’ or tapping the microphone icon. Your audio is saved to your account only when you’re signed in and Voice & Audio Activity is turned on. Audio can be saved even when your device is offline.
The Mountain View company says it uses your Voice & Audio Activity to learn the sound of your voice and how you say words and phrases. It is also used to improve speech recognition across it products.
To see your saved audio, sign in with your Google account information. This will enable you to see all the information Google has stored on the history of your account.
To delete any, click on the three dots in the top right corner and choose ‘Delete activity by’. This will take you to a window where you can pick if you would like to delete any information.
This is not the first time that the voice search function has landed the firm in hot water. In October, users uncovered a quirk in some models of the Home Mini which meant that the gadget was constantly monitoring and recording their speech.
To address concerns over the vast amount of data gathered by Google, it released its ‘My Activity’ feature in June 2016. If users have not configured their settings to avoid it, the data could include a list of all the website they have visited and what they have used their phone to do. But the feature also enables users to delete records of their online search requests and videos watched on YouTube in a single location instead of having to visit different websites or apps.
The page shows a catalogue of pages visited, things searched and other activity, grouped by time. It also lets people look at the same timeline through filters looking at specific dates, and specific products like Google search and YouTube.
The company is tying to make it easier for users to manage the vast pool of information that it collects about their online activities across phones, computers and other devices. It keeps track of everything you have searched for in Google’s search engine, links you have clicked on after searches and even Google Map searches.
To find out what information the firm has on your online activity, visit Google’s My Activity page. Sign in with your Google account information and this will enable you to see all the information Google has stored on the history of your account. To delete any, click on the three dots in the top right corner and choose ‘Delete activity by’. This will take you to a window where you can pick if you would like to delete any information.