Perhaps this might come as a thing of shock or surprise to many. Hearing that Google actually stores a copy of every query you’ve ever typed in the magical oracle-like search box of Google. Whats’s more? Google also stores copies of your voice search queries too. Issues like this have been known to cause Facebook privacy concerns issues in the past. Users of Google’s voice-control features such as OK Google are probably aware that the company stores the voice recordings it receives when they talk to it. But it’s still a bit of a shock to be confronted with a list of all the recordings the company has ever made of you.
Google’s voice and audio activity page isn’t promoted heavily by the company, and visiting it gives a hint as to why. If you have (or have ever had) an Android phone with Google’s “OK Google” voice-control system, the page should show a list of every command you have ever given it – replete with a little play button next to it. The good news is you can head over to google’s search history page and clear every damn search history.
In my case, that means I found lots of funny recordings and weird search queries. Like asking for the full net worth of Bill Gates, asking for the nearest ATM, lazily doing Fahrenheit conversions for cooking, trying to get driving directions to an office, and just hurling random obscenities as a dumb, unfeeling computer. The feature is one of a number of attempts by the company to demystify its data-collection service. Similarly, Google offers a location history, showing users any location the company has tracked them to, through apps such as Google Maps as well as simply using an Android phone.
But in both cases, the features create a sense of unease just as strongly as they do reassurance. Yes, it’s good to be able to see what the company keeps. But it’s also a stark reminder of just how much it has in the first place. That’s not to say the company doesn’t have good reasons. If you use voice control on a Google product, you’ve benefited from the fact that it stores your voice, both in aggregate (the large amount of data it harvests from users allows it to improve recognition) and in particular (by learning your specific voice, it can get better at recognising it).
As awesome as this seems, some apprehensive and paranoid folks might not really be comfortable with their stuff (personal stuff) littering Google’s store of crap. And so if you belong to this team, (I like to call them, Team Paranoia!), then I’ve got bad news for you. Because if you’re averse to your data and information being stored online you really have a limited choice and a tiny array of options. Yes, you really do have a small array of options. Now here’s my humble view And if you use the services, you have already opted in to storing your data once (though you may not remember doing so). But if you’re still left unsettled by the feature, you can switch it off – sort of.
Turning voice Activity off doesn’t stop Google storing your recordings, but it means they get kept with an anonymous identifier, and can’t be easily linked back to your account. If you want to stop Google recording your voice at all, well, there’s only one solution: stop talking to it. I hope you learnt from this? Bottom-line of this lesson: Nothing is ever truly private as long as it involves online transfer of data and digital signals. Best bet, make your own technologies for everything you need. Quite hilarious right?