Google has allegedly been tapping into Android users’ mobile devices to secretly record private conversations, The Sun reported online.
According to the report, the technology giant’s Google Assistant — which works in the same manner as Apple’s Siri — purportedly records conversations without the users knowing. Google has insisted that its new virtual assistant only switches on and commences recording when users say “OK Google.”
“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…[and] improving speech recognition against all Google products that use your voice,” a company spokesperson said.
However, an investigation carried out by the British newspaper showed that Google’s audio assistant jams up in some instances. The report noted that in some cases, just saying “Ok” in a random conversation will prompt the system to switch the phone on and record about 20 seconds of audio.
The system was also found to switch the microphone on as users go about their usual activities day-in and day-out. Once the virtual assistant finishes recording, the system uploads the audio files to its computer servers often referred to as “the cloud.”
According to the report, these audio files can be accessed anywhere in the world as long as internet connection is available. This means that any device that is signed into a user’s personal Gmail or Google account can access these files and allow the user to listen to the recordings.
The audio recording typically last around 10 to 20 seconds on average. The tech giant is also found to save text versions of the private conversations. The report noted that these audio files will help the artificial intelligence designed to oversee Google Home by teaching it how humans naturally communicate with each other.
Here’s what you can do to delete files, other private information
An article posted in the Wired website features a few pointers in deleting private information to prevent unwanted attention from Google and the federal government.
The article confirmed that Google saves the users’ voice search entry. The tech giant saves the entries to improve the system’s search capacity and ad placement. However, this has been reported in many cases.
The Wired article recommended that users visit Google’s Voice & Audio Activity page to review the saved voice searches and listen back to them. These files — which may contain interesting, funny and random recordings — may be deleted by selecting any of the files, checking the box beside them and then clicking “delete” at the top of the screen. (Related: WATCH OUT: Google is recording everything you search and say.)
Aside from the voice searches, Google was also found to keep track of the users’ location and search history. According to the article, the tech giant’s location history or timeline page features a Google Map that allows users to check their location and select specific dates and time.
The system’s accuracy depended on whether a users was signed in to his Google account, or if he had his device with him. This information can be deleted by visiting the timeline page, clicking on the settings cog at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen and selecting the “delete all” option.
Google is also noted to store the search history of all its users, the article stated. Perhaps a no-brainer, users may delete their list of search queries by checking Google’s history page clicking on the Menu and hitting the “Advanced”, “All Time”, and “Delete” options.
Users may also bar google from tracking their searches for good. This can be done by visiting the activity controls page and clicking on the “tracking off” option, the article noted.