Today Josh at KISS 107.7 (I still want to call it The River) in Lethbridge, AB posted on Facebook about voice recordings Google takes on Android phones. By the way Josh, if you use Google Search app on your iPhone the same thing will happen. If you use Siri or Voice dictation on Apple then that data is also stored (and allegedly sold to third parties – I don’t have time to research this at the moment, but a quick google search reports that they admitted to it). Should we care?
Personally, I don’t mind. If Google wants to use recordings of me saying “OK Google, what’s the weather like? … OK Google, Remind me to go back to work in 30 minutes… OK Google, remind me to buy milk when I’m done work” to improve their voice recognition, then I’m OK with that. Google and Apple both have expansive privacy policies. As an end user it is up to me to read and understand them. I don’t personally view it as a violation of my privacy that they store these recordings. Especially not when they make them available to me and I can choose to delete them at any time. I can also choose to turn this feature off completely. Here’s how:
- Visit https://myaccount.google.com/activitycontrols (this page is also home to other Google Activity Switches – look around and choose what you want them keeping)
- Sign into your Google account if prompted
- Scroll down to “Voice and Audio Activity” and flip the switch (see image below)
- You can also choose to click Manage Activity and listen/delete stored data.
Google claims Voice Activity is only saved after you say OK Google or touch the microphone. Some users report they found saved data in their Activity page even though they don’t use those features. I’m still working on trying to find out why this would be. My first guess is that it would be like a pocket dial… You know, when you leave a 15 minute voice mail and it’s just you watching Netflix because your phone got activated from your pocket. The same could happen with the microphone button on your phone. And with Google Assistant now, all it takes it pressing and holding your home button for Google to begin listening to you. If you don’t want Google to have this information, simply follow the above directions. Apple’s site says that when you delete Siri and Dictation that they will delete your stored data
Who Pays for Google
Google is a huge company with huge profits, yet they offer us a lot of services for free. Gmail, Google Search, Google Photos, Google Assistant, Google Drive and it’s suite of online office compatible programs, and the list goes on and on. So how is this all paid for? The answer is mainly through Ads. Google is first and foremost an advertising company. When you search, there are paid results at the top of the list. There are ads in your Gmail inbox. And to make those ads match you, Google uses the personal data we give it to build up an advertising profile on us.
Google products and services are not free. We just don’t pay for them with cash. We pay with our data. Everything we type in or say to Google is considered our giving them that data. So far I haven’t heard any reports of Google using this data in negative ways.
With large companies gaining access to more and more of our data this is a conversation that needs to be had. We need to make ourselves aware of who has our data and what they are doing with it. Both Google and Amazon have devices that are designed to sit in our homes and listen to us. There has been at least one case where data from an Amazon Alexa device may have been able to solve a murder. So is this an invasion of privacy. Which is more important: Protecting our data or solving a crime?
In conclusion, my personal stance is that I’m not worried about Google having my personal data. The data of my clients, however, is encrypted and I only use secure payment options. As I said, if google wants to store me asking for directions to Disneyland on their servers, that’s fine. I understand why some people are upset by this. I guess part of why I’m not upset is because it has never come as a surprise to me that this data is being stored. To many people it is a surprise, and that surprise leaves them feeling somewhat violated. My honest advice: If you don’t want a company to have data on you, don’t use any product from that company. For Google this would include Chrome, Keep, Android, Search, Gmail, Drive, Chromebooks, Assistant, Google Now, and other products and services offered by Google. The same can be said for other companies like Amazon, Apple, Samsung and Microsoft. It’s increasingly hard to get away from data collection, and in many circumstances legislation is still lacking in dealing with this.
Let me know in the comments how you feel about this. Do you feel your privacy is being invaded by these companies? Do you plan to delete whatever data you can? Will you be reading the privacy policies and End User License Agreements (EULA) more closely before using digital devices?
If any of this was confusing or you’d like help sorting out your privacy settings on any device, you can contact Y-Not Tech Services and we can help. Why not let Tony take care of it?