Google is storing your voice data, and you may not have known of it

By Souvik Das | Published on 03 Jun 2016
Google is storing your voice data, and you may not have known of it

This is not OK, Google.

For long, it was assumed that any voice search executed via ‘OK Google’ on Android devices were never kept on record by Google. As it turns out, Google does keep records of your voice commands. In a link shared out by Google itself, a startling revelation found that all of your voice commands ever given to Android’s “OK Google” service has been recorded and stored by the company. The log of recorded voice messages are kept away from the rest of the search history.

While this should not be entirely stunning, this is the first time Google’s log-keeping act has been published. “OK, Google” is triggered with a voice command of the same words, and is a convenient way for users to get information on myriad subjects. I, for instance, happened to have checked for the distance between Leicester City and London, on March 5, at 7:40pm. Having been an iOS user for the most part, my search history is reasonably clean and contains no information that I should be wary of sharing. For a (particularly large) number of my peers using Android, the situation is not too clean.

My voice log: Quaint, innit?

A number of these service providers have been known for such practices. For instance, Amazon’s Echo, the voice assistant-powered connected home speaker, collects data from the voice commands given to it and gathers them under Alexa, the data and informatics company. It then collates the information to run market statistics regarding user income groups and buying patterns. The recorded voice commands also lead to the organisations pushing relevant advertisements to users.

While most “OK, Google” searches involve contact and location queries and may not qualify as outright sensitive content, it is still a major discussion to be held for user data privacy. The recorded voice commands, as Google states, is strictly available to you. But, evidently, Google can access your voice searches. While your phone would not automatically record every word you utter, “OK, Google” may get activated at any voice command similar to the phrase. A wrongly-timed press of a button may also activate the voice assistant, in which case a compromising chunk of your private conversation may just get recorded.

An Android-loving friend: More frequent, more data

As of now, Google offers you ways to delete the voice commands, although a possibility of your inputs remaining in Google’s logs remain. Google has already been under the scanner for storing immense amounts of private search and location data from its users, and the presence of voice commands in the list further add to the log of information that Google maintains for its users. What seems now is a possibility for you to delete any information that you may deem sensitive. Will this impact privacy in the long term? Only time will tell.

Souvik Das

The one that switches between BMWs and Harbour Line Second Class.

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