Friday, February 23, 2018

Your Android Is Secretly Always Recording: How to Stop Google From Listening

By  Ben Stegner  

Is your Android phone always listening to you? Does Google keep a log of everything you say? And if so, what can you do about it?
In an age where every device has a microphone and they’re made by companies who love to track what you’re doing, these are valid questions. Let’s take a look at the facts behind Google recordings and how you can stop them.9 Examples of How Smartphones Are Eavesdropping on You 9 Examples of How Smartphones Are Eavesdropping on YouIf you aren't careful, your smartphone may be listening in on your conversation -- even when you aren't on a call. But is it real or is it just paranoia?READ MORE

How Is Google Listening?

Before we continue, we should explain what exactly Google records from your Android device.
If you have a certain setting enabled on your phone, saying OK Google will cause it to listen for a command. Before you say this wake phrase, your phone is listening for the OK Google hotword, but it is not recording everything you say and uploading it to Google. Just like with concerns over the Amazon Echo, constantly recording everything a device hears would result in enormous amounts of useless data.7 Ways Alexa and Amazon Echo Pose a Privacy Risk 7 Ways Alexa and Amazon Echo Pose a Privacy RiskAmazon's Echo devices are neat, but having a network-connected microphone in your bedroom is a potential privacy nightmare. Here's what we need to consider about Alexa's effect on our privacy.READ MORE
Even if you don’t have the OK Google hotword enabled, you can still use voice commands (that Google records too). Tapping the microphone icon on the search bar or holding the Home button to open Google Assistant will both immediately prompt you for a voice command.
What Google does record are the voice commands you say to your phone. If you say OK Google, how old is Jack Black?, Google holds onto the question and a few seconds of prior audio.
stop google listening recording and spying

How Do I Listen to My Google Recordings?

Google provides a portal for you to view all your interactions with its services. This includes voice recordings of your interactions with Google Assistant. To review them:
  1. Head to the Google My Activity page. You’ll see everything from YouTube videos you just watched to apps you’ve opened on your phone.
  2. Apply a filter to only show voice recordings. Click Filter by date & product at the top under the search bar.
  3. Next, uncheck All products under Filter by Google product and check only Voice & Audio.
  4. Click the Search button again.
stop google listening recording and spying
You’ll then see a timeline of all the recordings Google has of your voice starting with the most recent. It bundles close events together — click a bundle to expand it and then hit Play to listen to the recording.How to Find Out If Google Has Been Listening to You How to Find Out If Google Has Been Listening to YouHere's something that might unsettle you: Google can hear everything you do, and most of it may be getting recorded. Here's how to clear and disable all of that.READ MORE

How Do You Turn Off Google Recording?

You can disable Google’s voice recording in two different ways.

Turn Off OK Google on Your Phone

The first is to turn off the OK Google detection on your phone, which you can do by performing the following:
  1. Open Settings on your phone and enter the Google category.
  2. Select Search under Services.
  3. Next, tap Voice.
  4. You’ll see a Voice Match entry; this may also be listed as “OK Google” detection. Tap that.
  5. Disable the Say “Ok Google” any time slider. You may also want to disable While driving to prevent it in Google Maps and Android Auto, though it is convenient in those scenarios.
stop google listening recording and spying
Once you do this, Google Assistant will only respond to OK Google when you have the Google app open (or when on the home screen of a Pixel or Nexus device). Your phone thus will no longer always be listening for the hotword.

Revoke Google’s Access to Your Microphone

To go further, you can deny the Google app permission to access your microphone:What Are Android Permissions and Why Should You Care? What Are Android Permissions and Why Should You Care?Do you ever install Android apps without a second thought? Here's all you need to know on Android app permissions, how they've changed, and how it affects you.READ MORE
  1. Open Settings on your phone and tap Apps & notifications.
  2. Tap See all X apps to get a full list.
  3. Scroll down to Google and select it.
  4. Tap Permissions and disable the Microphone slider.
stop google listening recording and spying

Disable Google Assistant

If you’d like, you can completely disable the Google Assistant instead:
  1. Open Settings on your phone and enter the Google category.
  2. Select Search under Services.
  3. Tap Settings under Google Assistant.
  4. Tap your device name under Devices.
  5. Slide the Google Assistant toggle off.
stop google listening recording and spying

Turn Off Google Voice History

Turning off OK Google or Google Assistant on your phone doesn’t do anything for other Android devices you may own. Plus, Google can still keep voice data if you search by voice in Chrome. To pause voice history for your entire Google account, perform the following steps:
  1. Visit Google’s Activity Controls page and sign into your account if needed.
  2. Scroll down to Voice & Audio Activity.
  3. Disable the slider to prevent Google from linking your voice activity with your account.
stop google listening recording and spying
Doing this will limit voice-related functions on your Google account, which is your objective in the first place! Once you do this, you should also delete the past recordings Google has kept. To do so:
  1. Return to the My Activity Voice & Audio page.
  2. Click Delete activity by on the left side.
  3. Change the Today dropdown box to All time and click Delete.
stop google listening recording and spying

What Does Google Do With This Data?

It’s important to note that aside from Google, only you can access your voice data. That is, of course, unless Google was breached.
Google explains that it uses your voice activity to help you get better results across its products, in ways like:
  • Learning the sound of your voice.
  • Learning how you say words and phrases.
  • Recognizing when you say OK Google.
  • Improving speech recognition across Google products that use your voice.
This is all useful, but a giant corporation keeping records of what you say is nonetheless concerning. An algorithm could easily parse through this information to figure out what you’re interested in based on what you say.

Using Google Without Voice

Unless you turn off Google Assistant, you can still enjoy its benefits even without using your voice.
After you hold the Home button on your phone to open it, tap the keyboard icon in the bottom-left corner. This lets you type out a command for Google Assistant. It will respond just like if you had spoken it.
stop google listening recording and spying
This isn’t as convenient, but that’s the cost of increased privacy. Of course, by using Google Assistant at all, Google is still able to see what you’re interested in and track you. If you’d rather avoid this, try DuckDuckGo, one of the best Android apps for protecting your privacy.9 Ways To Protect Your Privacy on Android 9 Ways To Protect Your Privacy on AndroidAndroid offers various privacy-friendly features, but Google doesn't always make it clear how we should use them. Let us take you through some of the best ways to protect data on your Android.READ MORE
Download: DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser (Free)

Happy to Shut Google Up?

We’ve gone over what Google listens for on your Android phone, how to delete your voice history data, and the methods for stopping this recording. You may suffer a bit of inconvenience by disabling these features, but knowing that Google isn’t keeping a log of what you say is worth it.
For a completely Google-free phone, check out our guide on how to use Android and ditch Google.Here's How You Can Use Android But Ditch Google Here's How You Can Use Android But Ditch GoogleWant to use your Android smartphone or tablet without Google? Want to use open source software? Here we take an in-depth look at exactly how to do that.READ MORE
Did you disable any of the voice recording features? What did you think of having your voice history all in one place? Tell us your thoughts on this behavior down in the comments!

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