Google Home Hub with a Microphone in front of it.
Josh Hendrickson

Google may be storing everything you say to your Google Home and keeping the recordings forever, just as Alexa does. Google recently changed the default behavior not to keep the recordings. But that change only affected new users—not existing ones.

Google Home Records What You Say

Google voice recordings showing the"favorite this photo" and "but will do even better scientific"
The second result is a false positive. A TV character said: “Ok people, we’ll do even better! Scientific!”

Your Google Home spends most of its time listening for its wake words, “Hey Google” or “OK Google.” The device then records everything you say after the wake word and sends it to Google’s servers for parsing. Google needs to store these recordings temporarily. But Google may be storing what you say forever.

As the Washington Post points out, keeping the recordings forever used to be the default behavior, but it isn’t anymore. Google now makes you opt-in to sending the company your voice recordings. However, Google only made the change for new users and not existing users. If your account previously sent voice recordings to Google, it will keep doing so until you turn it off.

We’ve covered before why companies keep your data like this, but it’s pretty straight forward. Artificial Intelligence isn’t very intelligent, and as far as voice assistants have come, they still miss the mark frequently. As Amazon does for Alexa, Google employs humans to listen to your commands, compare them to what the Assistant thought it heard, and how it responded. Google uses this process to improve its results or learn what features users want implemented that don’t exist yet.

Trying to improve Google assistant is a good thing, but changing the default behavior from opt-out to opt-in is even better. Google is way ahead of Amazon on this front—with Alexa the default is still to record and worse yet, you can’t opt out at all.

RELATED: Alexa, Why Are Employees Looking at My Data?

How to Stop Google From Collecting Voice Recordings

Voice & Audio Activity dialog with box around toggle

If you’re an existing user working under the old defaults, the good news is you can tell Google to stop collecting your voice recordings. The even better news is it’s incredibly easy to do.

To stop this, go to Google’s Activity Controls website. Scroll to “Voice & Audio Activity” and toggle it off. You will see a warning that states Google devices may not understand you when you say “Hey Google,” but we think it’s old warning text. In our testing, commands still work.

Click the “Pause” option at the bottom of the warning.

Warning dialog with box around pause option.

You’ll need to repeat this process with every Google account you’ve connected to your Google Home. This setting applies to every device you can say “Hey Google” to, from your phone to a Nest Home Hub (formerly known as a Google Home Hub) to a Lenovo smart display.

How to Delete All Your Voice Recordings

Now that you’ve turned voice collection off, you can delete what Google already has. Just click on “Manage Activity” beneath the toggle on the Activity Controls website.

Voice & Audio activity dialog with box around Manage Activity

Click “Delete activity by” in the upper left corner of the page.

Voice activity dialog with arrow pointing to "Delete activity by"

Choose which recordings you want to delete. To delete everything, click the box under “Delete by Date” and select “All Time.”

Delete by topic or product dialog with arrows pointing to today dropdown and all time option

Finally, click “Delete” to delete the selected recordings.

Delete by topic or product dialog with arrow pointing to delete option.

It’s great that Google enabled a more privacy-sensitive option for new users. We wish Google had made the change retroactive, however. Hopefully, Amazon follows in stride and gives everyone similar controls in the future.

Josh Hendrickson Josh Hendrickson
Josh Hendrickson has worked in IT for nearly a decade, including four years spent repairing and servicing computers for Microsoft. He’s also a smarthome enthusiast who built his own smart mirror with just a frame, some electronics, a Raspberry Pi, and open-source code.
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