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Google really is listening and recording on apps

Published: January 4, 2020
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Source: usa today

Google says it records interactions with connected devices like the Google Home speaker only 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 recent tests.

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. 

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