Is Google really eavesdropping on you?

June 7, 2016

A recent story suggests Google is secretly recording your conversations and discussions. Although the story does have merit, it also has some problems.

Is Google really eavesdropping on you?

Google is recording voices; that’s entirely true. However, it does so for voice recognition only — and Apple does the same. Both record voice search history to help their apps (OK Google and Siri) better understand voice. Another point to note is that Google records only on Android devices, not Apple products (unless you’ve installed the Google app on your iPhone).

On the other hand, Google operates around the globe, with the exception of a few countries, and it’s not hard to see how something like this could be used for ill gain. Also, you have to ask: Why is Google storing the recordings? Using your voice recordings temporarily to understand your search query is understandable, but why save them?

Google: voice search history

Well, they store your search history, all your e-mails, your office documents, your location data, your pictures, and who knows what else, so why would voice records be an exception? The real question is, what are they using all that data for?

For the long-term plan, Google feeds the data into its giant cloud platform to help build the company’s search tools. In the short term it’s used to make your search results more relevant and to make advertisements more effective: In case you didn’t know it, Google earns its impressive $20 billion per quarter almost entirely from advertising.

That advertising is the reason Google gives you all those amazing apps and services “free.” You pay with your data, and with the advertisements you consume.

One more scary thing to consider: If someone hacks into your account, they will learn a freaking lot about you.

Fortunately, in this case the data storage is voluntary (for now), though it is enabled by default. If you don’t want to be a part of this data feeding and storing business, the best thing to do is to opt out and disable (“pause”) everything in Google’s tracking settings.

Google: search history tracking settings