Google is secretly recording your routine conversations, and it probably happens all the time. A recent investigation of Google Assistant, a voice-activated app installed on every Android smartphone, found the software covertly turns on and records simply by saying “OK.”
Anyone with an Android-powered smartphone has likely used Google’s Assistant, an app similar to Amazon’s Alexa. Instead of typing, the software was created to help users by listening to questions and requests when someone speaks.
However, Google’s virtual assistant program should only activate when someone says “Ok, Google” into the phone or device. Yet, a recent investigation by The Sun discovered just saying “Ok” triggers the app to start listening and record for about 20 seconds.
Once the recording is complete, the audio file is then uploaded to Google’s servers and stored. After being sent to “the cloud,” the files can be accessed as easily as signing into your Google account. Essentially, if you or anyone else log into your personal account, your day-to-day conversations and activity are likely sitting there waiting.
When The Sun asked Google about the storage of these seemingly mundane recordings, a spokesperson said they help the company make the app better.
“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.”
While this response makes sense, Google is not just a technology company trying to make superior products. It is also a marketing company, so it would be in their best interest to get to know the advertising target as best as possible.
Every day, users perform billions of information requests with Google’s online search engine. Google keeps track of this data to create customized marketing aimed at getting someone to click on certain sites. It probably isn’t a far stretch to think Google would do the same with voice data.
Seeing your online history is quite easy. Sign on to your Google or Gmail account, then go to “myactivity.google.com/myactivity” in your web browser. From here, you can get a chronological list of your online activity, including YouTube videos and Maps searches. Under “Voice and Audio Activity,” you’ll find a list of any recordings stored by Google. You can also delete activity or turn off monitoring entirely.
By the way, switching to an Apple iPhone won’t keep you safe from voice monitoring, either. Siri, Apple’s version of Google Assistant, also secretly records and stores conversations. However, there is no way for users to access them at this time. According to the company, the recordings are “anonymized” after 18 months, making it impossible to determine who is talking.
[Featured Image by Leon Neal/Getty Images]