Google has announced that it will do more to protect user privacy for its Google Assistant and confirmed that it doesn’t save voice recordings by default. The news comes after revelations that a Google contractor was leaking private user audio recordings meant to improve its translation service. “It’s clear that we fell short of our high standards in making it easy for you to understand how your data is used, and we apologize,” wrote the company wrote in a blog post.
Google isn’t alone in misusing voice data, as both Amazon and Apple recently confirmed that they were saving Alexa and Siri conversations in an attempt to improve their AI algorithms. Apple suspended the program last month and then promised to resume it using computer-generated transcripts, but only if users opt in. Amazon, meanwhile, said that it will still do select voice recording by default, but allow users to opt out.
Google paused its human audio review in July, but said it will resume with new safeguards in place. “By default, we don’t retain your audio recordings,” it wrote. “This has been the case, and will remain unchanged.”
We’re updating our policy to vastly reduce the amount of audio data we store. For those of you who have opted in to VAA, we will soon automatically delete the vast majority of audio data associated with your account that’s older than a few months. This new policy will be coming to VAA later this year.
What’s changing is that if you have opted in, Google will prompt you to review your settings choice under the “Voice & Audio Activity” parameter. The company has also tried to improve filters that are supposed to erase voice recordings made in error when the user hasn’t said “OK Google” or other wake words. It will also soon launch a new feature that allows you to select how sensitive the Assistant is to your wake word to avoid accidental activation.
By the end of the year, Google will “vastly reduce” how much audio data it stores, the company said. If you opt in to allow it to save your voice data, it will delete the majority of it after a few months. “One of the principles we strive toward is minimizing the amount of data we store, and we’re applying this to the Google Assistant as well,” according to the post.
You’ll still have to be careful across all your assistants that your voice data is being used how you want. At least now, more people are becoming aware, and if you want, you should be able to turn off — or at least limit — one of the microphones that listens intently to your every word.