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The Amazon Echo & Dot with Alexa was the first to jump into the market with a virtual assistant (VA), and it took off faster than expected. Now Google has decided to play catch up with its own VA. They can be very helpful around the house: they control smart appliances, give you news and traffic updates, play music and so much more.
I cook or do chores, even work in the garage listening to Alexa playing whatever music I’m in the mood for. I can even check scores on one game while I’m watching another on TV. And now I’m beginning to attach a few appliances in via Bluetooth that I can voice-control. What was first a cool adult toy has become a convenience.
However, some people fear that having a VA in their home will jeopardize their privacy. Unfortunately, Google just confirmed those fears. Some Google Mini devices have been recording everything it hears.
If you have a VA, you know that to get its attention you simply need to say the wake word or phrase. For example, with Amazon’s Alexa, you just say ‘Alexa’ and with Google’s VA you say ‘OK Google’.
Saying these words “wakes” your virtual assistant up so that it can hear your requests. You can ask things like, “Alexa, what is the weather going to be like today?”, or “OK Google, what is traffic like on my commute to work?” It’s that easy.
A vulnerability that was recently found in some of Google’s Home Mini devices had it waking up on its own, without a voice command. It would then record everything happening within listening range and send those recordings to Google.
That means that Google was recording everything going on, storing all your conversations, and then parsing them for data to sell. Yes, the big ear of Big Brother was listening. It seemed as though reading your email and tracking your location wasn’t enough for Google, now it wanted to listen to your every word as well.
Google has admitted that there was a problem with some of the new gadgets. Here is a statement released by the company:
“The Google Home team is aware of an issue impacting Google Home Mini devices that could cause the touch control mechanism to behave incorrectly. We are working on a software update to mitigate the issue.”
Google also claims that only people who purchased a first generation of the Home Mini device are affected. The second generation of the device was recently released and so far the “glitch” hasn’t appeared. But considering Google’s continuing need to record and keep personal data for resale, multiple researchers are keeping watch.
If you own a Google Home Mini device and want to make sure there are no unwanted recordings of you saved, there’s a way to find out and delete them
Open up Google’s My Activity tool
Google’s account settings tool, My Activity, keeps all the settings for your search activity across multiple platforms. This is also where you can edit or delete the information that you find.
To find My Activity, head to Google’s home page and log in to your account. Tap the circle in the upper corner with your initial inside and a menu will open, click My Account.
From there, you’ll be asked to confirm your password before any of your information will be shown.
Then, use these steps to delete your entire search history:
- Tap Delete activity by – On the left side of your My Activity page, you will see a menu of actions. Tap Delete activity by.
This will bring up a selection box where you choose a delete date and product.
- Select All Time – Under Delete by date in the selection box, change Today to All Time. This will erase every Google search under your account from its archive. (Note: There is also an option to select a date range to delete searches from, but it’s easier and more secure to delete them all.)
- Select Search – In the drop down menu, change All Products to Search. This means you’ll only be deleting your search history. There are more options to choose from such as All Products, Ads, Chrome, Maps, Video Search and YouTube. If you’re only looking to erase your Google search history, select Search.
- Tap Delete – A pop-up will appear, warning you that your activity can make Google services more useful to you, like better commute options in Maps and quicker results in Search.
- Click OK – Another pop-up will appear asking you to confirm that you want to delete your Search activity from all time and warns you these items will be permanently deleted from your Google Account.
You should follow this procedure every few months so future searches are not archived like the ones that you just deleted. It’s that simple.
If you have a first generation Home Mini, or think that you are having this issue, contact Google Home Support at 1-855-971-9121 to get a replacement.
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