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, “” 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

May 17, 2011

File Encryption

I have had many emails over time about security of thumb drives.  For instance, I sometimes think about what would happen if I accidentally left my thumb drive lying around somewhere. The finder could open my private files on that drive.

That used to be a concern, but for many years I have been using a great free application called TrueCrypt.  There are probably thousands of other file encryption applications out there but I believe this is one of the better ones.  Also, TrueCrypt meets one of my favorite criteria. It is free.


Before I start telling you what this application will do I will warn you of a few things.  It is very, very good at what it does.  It is not one of the easiest programs to set up.  You may have to read a bit to learn how to use it; however, it will be worth the effort.

Once TrueCrypt is set up you will need a password to access the encrypted files on the drive.  This can include external and internal hard drives as well as thumb drives.

One interesting feature is that you can create an encrypted “container”.  The container is set up on a drive somewhere and when opened you may place as many files as will fit in it.  The size of a container is determined by you when it is created. The neat thing is that you may copy this container to any other location and use it as a container there.  For instance, you could copy your important files to this container (it actually acts like a folder) and transport it to another computer via email, thumb drive, etc.  When you take it to the new computer you copy it to that system, open the container and presto-change-o there are your files in a new place.  If you encrypt the entire thumb drive or a portion of your hard drive you can’t move it from place to place.

Also, remember… to use this on a portable drive you must have TrueCrypt running on that computer.  Hmm, what do you do if TrueCrypt is not on the computer you are trying to use?  No problem! When you set up the drive you can install TrueCrypt on that portable device so you may run it from there when using someone else’s computer.

If you have a need to encrypt your files I highly recommend TrueCrypt.  Also, you don’t need to contact me for specifics. There are many ways to set it up and their site is full of helpful information. If you give it a try let me know what you think.

Powered by WordPress

%d bloggers like this: