DoubleClicks.info About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

November 3, 2015

OK Google, the All Hearing iEar?

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 4:32 am

There were a couple of interesting electronic add-ons to our world a few years ago.  One called Siri for iPhones/Apple devices and “OK Google” for Google devices.

Google The All Hearing iEar?For my Android phone I simply say, “OK Google” and tell it whatever I am looking for.  If I need help finding a store I say, “OK Google,” adding a slight pause then, “Where is the closest florist?”  It will usually give me a list of florists in my immediate area.

In recent months I have heard about people wondering if Google ever stops listening.  And if not, what is it finding out?  Some think we are being spied on by nefarious eavesdroppers.  Can Google and Apple be gathering everything we say?  Like your morning conversations, your private spoken out loud thoughts, singing in the car on the way to work ad infinitum.

I will say that yes, Google collects a lot of data about you that you may not appreciate; however, listening to your voice all the time…highly unlikely.  It does listen for the beat, tone, intonation for the words, “OK Google” which starts it working.

That being said, what does Google collect about you from your audio commands and questions?  Not only that, but how about your Chrome browsing history, (if you are logged in with your Google account) emails, travel and more.  Sounds a little “big brotherish” does it not?

To check on this information, edit and or stop it all, first log into your Google or Gmail account.  Then go to, “history.google.com” and look around.

On the left side there is a dropdown menu with three short vertical lines for you to click.  There are six areas where Google collects information.  They are, “Web & App Activity,” “Voice & Audio Activity,” “Device Information,” “Location History,” “YouTube Watch History” and “YouTube Search History.”  If you did not realize it, Google purchased YouTube in October of 2006, which is why you see that specific item.

Google Web & App Activity screen

Once you have looked around and either laughed or cringed click on, “Voice & Audio Activity.”  I am sure you have already checked it out but it is fun to listen to yourself speak to Google and read how it may have sometimes been improperly interpreted.

If you want them gone you may delete them by checking them and hitting the Delete button.  You may also head to any of the six areas you want to delete and click the three dots in a vertical column on the upper right and choose “Delete Options.”  From there you can choose either Today, Yesterday or Advanced.  Advanced allows you to choose “All time” to remove all of them.

What if you what to get rid of OK Google’s ability to remember what you say, where you go, or what you have watched on YouTube?  First make sure you have deleted all activity as we discussed above.  Now click the three dots in the upper right for the “Menu,” “Settings,” and “Show More” controls.  You will now be presented with a listing of the six items.  Start flipping the switches for each setting to off (changes the buttons to gray).

The only ones I keep on are Places you go and Information from your devices.  All the others are off for me.  But for you conspiracy theorists out there…could they still be listening?

Six ON/OFF Choices with Ron's two selected

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