Google records everything in voice search on iPhone, Android, desktop

Google says it only records interactions with connected devices like the Google Home speaker when we use the “wake word,” of “Hey, Google,” or “OK, Google.”

But when using many of the Google smartphone apps with a microphone for voice search, or even Google on the desktop with voice commands, it can actually record every word you say to it – whether you use the wake word or not. 

The fine print is that you have to click on the microphone in the apps to communicate with Google. (For queries like “Hey, Google, find Italian restaurants near me.”) Once you do that, Google will start transcribing you, word for word, and storing your commands, in text and audio, as USA TODAY discovered in tests this week.

This is similar to Google’s monitoring of our keystrokes. The search giant takes note of every letter and word typed into the Google Chrome browser, and every website visited, unless you use “Incognito Mode” instead. (Remember, though, incognito doesn’t mean invisible.)

How does the audio tracking get accepted? When you set up your Google account, it asks you to “opt-in” to let Google track your video and audio recordings. 

Google's opt-in ask for audio tracking

In one of a series of e-mails to USA TODAY, Google said it does this to improve the accuracy of the Google Assistant. 

Google is so all-encompassing on tracking us that when we started dictating a dummy phrase aloud into the Google Assistant app on an iPhone, Google transcribed every word. 

The phrase: “We are told that Google only records you if you first use the wake word. Then how to explain this, huh?”

It recorded and transcribed every other query as well. 

We tried again on a Google Pixel Android phone and on the web version of Google.com using the microphone from the built-in webcam on an Apple MacBook Pro and the results were strikingly similar. We were recorded every time. 

In response, Google says it only records when you click on the microphone. It adds that users have to “opt-in” to have audio recordings stored to your account. 

Which is better? Hey, Google and Alexa, how easy is it to take control?

Feelings:Can a robot with AI or your voice assistant help you feel less lonely?

But you’re probably wondering when did I opt-in for this?

To get you to agree to this, Google asks you to opt-in, by making certain features available.

For instance, Google Maps has a service called “Match,” which suggests restaurants based on your past dining experiences and tastes. If you click on it, Google sends you to Settings to allow Location History tracking. 

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