If you’ve got an Android phone, you might want to read this. As it turns out it might have been secretly recording you at certain times without you ever having realised. You’ll likely be aware of Google’s Assistant, similar to Siri. In order to use Google’s Assistant, users say the words “OK Google”.
But as a recent investigation revealed, sometimes all it takes to trigger the microphone to start recording is saying the word “OK”. Now think back to all the times you’ve said “OK” near your phone – the chances are you probably can’t even count.
On certain occasions, the use of the word “OK” has been found to tell the phone to record what it hears for up to 20 seconds, and to then transcribe the conversation into text. That’s a lot of info it could be capturing while you’re none the wiser. And the best bit? This audio doesn’t just stay on your phone. This kind of information is usually automatically uploaded to the cloud. Where it can be accessed by any device that’s signed into the Google account attached to your phone.
Plus, Google Android’s terms and conditions note that they keep the recordings for the purpose of “improving speech recognition against all Google products that use your voice”. When asked, a Google spokesperson said: “We only process voice searches after the phone believes the hot word ‘OK Google’ is detected. Audio snippets are used by Google to improve the quality of speech recognition across Search.”
Here’s how readers can find out if their Android phone has been secretly recording:
- Sign into your Gmail or Google account on a computer.
- Type history.google.com/history into your web browser.
- On the left hand menu, click ‘Activity controls’.
- Scroll down to the ‘Voice & Audio activity’ section and click that. There you’ll find a list of all the voice and audio recordings. Which will include any secretly recording without you knowing.
Once you’ve checked your audio recording history, you’ll know whether any recordings have occurred without you having been aware.
One of the more interesting places to check out what Google knows about you is its ad settings page where you’ll see a profile Google has built for you based on your search history, YouTube history and interests. For example, it might know that you’re female. Aged 18-24 and interested in banking, consumer electronics, mobile phones, shooter games, rap, hip hop and toys.
From this page it’s possible to turn ad personalisation on (or off). If you opt out of it then the adverts that follow you around the web will stop appearing. Google’s ad network operates on more than two million websites around the world and limiting its knowledge about you will make everything seem that little less creepy.
It’s probably been tracking and recording your location too:
As previously covered in our article about iPhone’s tracking us. Google’s location history displays a Google Map and you can select specific dates and times and see where you were. Its accuracy depends on whether you were signed into your Google account and carrying a device at the time.
Here’s How to delete it: When you visit the timeline page. Press the settings cog in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen and select delete all from there. There’s also the option to pause location history by hitting the big button in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen. To completely get rid of it, you’ll need to opt out of both location tracking and location reporting with your device, whether you’re running Android or iOS.