Google Is Recording Everything You Say


#1

I like to warn everyone about data security and privacy. This is a good story I read in the Independent that I think everyone who has a Google account, owns an Android device, or uses any Google service should read.

Get in the habit of deleting all of your history and recordings on a daily basis if you can’t separate from Google services. Apple does the same thing, they just don’t make it accessible to users.

Google could have a record of everything you have said around it for years, and you can listen to it yourself.

The company quietly records many of the conversations that people have around its products.

The feature works as a way of letting people search with their voice, and storing those recordings presumably lets Google improve its language recognition tools as well as the results that it gives to people.

But it also comes with an easy way of listening to and deleting all of the information that it collects. That’s done through a special page that brings together the information that Google has on you.

It’s found by heading to Google’s history page and looking at the long list of recordings. The company has a specific audio page and another for activity on the web, which will show you everywhere Google has a record of you being on the internet.

The new portal was introduced in June 2015 and so has been active for the last year – meaning that it is now probably full of various things you have said, which you thought might have been in private.

The recordings can function as a kind of diary, reminding you of the various places and situations that you and your phone have been in. But it’s also a reminder of just how much information is collected about you, and how intimate that information can be.

You’ll see more if you’ve an Android phone, which can be activated at any time just by saying “OK, Google”. But you may well also have recordings on there whatever devices you’ve interacted with Google using.

On the page, you can listen through all of the recordings. You can also see information about how the sound was recorded – whether it was through the Google app or elsewhere – as well as any transcription of what was said if Google has turned it into text successfully.

But perhaps the most useful – and least cringe-inducing – reason to visit the page is to delete everything from there, should you so wish. That can be done either by selecting specific recordings or deleting everything in one go.

To delete particular files, you can click the check box on the left and then move back to the top of the page and select “delete”. To get rid of everything, you can press the “More” button, select “Delete options” and then “Advanced” and click through.

The easiest way to stop Google recording everything is to turn off the virtual assistant and never to use voice search. But that solution also gets at the central problem of much privacy and data use today – doing so cuts off one of the most useful things about having an Android phone or using Google search.


#2

That is really scary.

I’ve been an Android user for a long time. I always knew that Google kept my browsing history and location history, but the audio is just plain creepy. There are literally thousands of files in there of brief snippets of me in conversations when I was just using the Chrome browser.

They are all deleted, but I’m sure they are never really gone.


#3

This is why I still use a Blackberry. It’s not totally secure but it is much more private friendly than Apple or Android. I have an iPhone for work, but I keep it turned off when I’m not working. They only thing I use it for outside of work is Uber. I use Blackberry for all of my personal stuff.


#4

Have you ever noticed that when you talk about visiting a place or ordering a type of food, the ads served on the websites you are looking at seem to reflect what you were just talking about? This is why.


#5

Is there any way to prevent this from happening?

I don’t need the answer “don’t use Google” because that’s not what I am asking. If you still use Google services can you increase privacy in any way?


#6

Build your own computer, run Linux, don’t hook up a microphone or camera, use a VPN, don’t use Chrome.

On Android, wipe your phone, create a dummy account, use a VPN (Opera has a free one), don’t link anything personal to your Google account, keep location based service off, buy Google Play gift cards at the store and load the balances onto your account. Use Signal for text messaging.


#7

Privacy Scmivacy.

You get info you give info. All those old heads in the ether’s childhood knew that. Ultimate Transparency was the Ultimate Outcome. Some call today’s hackers as the counterpart of an overly secretive, overly invasive government. I would agree- with all the inherent concerns. Advertising is in a quandary today as fewer seem influenced by constant bombardment and subliminal messaging. TV is in retrograde because of the effects of that very transparency issue. I mean why watch commercials if you don’t have to. Sometimes those invasions of our privacy are pretty convenient, sometimes not. We do just ‘give it up’ all the time with no qualms- like facebook and twitter… every thought, every bite, every step is there for all to see. I’m sure that international intel scours those public source more than their own…

Although there are the programs to catch certain buzzwords there is so much more info on everybody and everything that there is no time to use it in a real-time world.

The glut is our salvation right now.


#8

I’ll be honest. I really don’t care much. I like my Alexa and having modern conveniences. If they want to hear all the boring stuff I talk about, go for it.


#9

Google could have a record of everything you have said around it for years, and you can listen to it yourself.

The company quietly records many of the conversations that people have around its products.

The feature works as a way of letting people search with their voice, and storing those recordings presumably lets Google improve its language recognition tools as well as the results that it gives to people.

And don’t forget… your TV could be listening… and you can’t delete those conversations…


#10

Big brother is here and watching.

Camera’s everywhere, NSA recording everything including this email and now our computers are our worst enemy beyond cookies.


#11

Just a little side note, avoid buying smart TVs. They are easy targets for hackers bc they are connected to the net when they are on/stand-by. Some/most have web-cams which can be easily exploited as well. Smart TVs are just lousier computers really, having their own processors etc…, and manufacturers are eager to churn out new versions every year for cash-grabs, that lead to various problems:

  1. They break like computer would, not the display but usually processor / electronic board. The bulk of the money usually goes into the display (it’s a TV after all), thus leaving the processing unit much to be desired.

  2. The firmwares / security wont be updated continuously, again feed into the ease to hack and exploit. Support usually stop after 2-3 years, and an average life span of a TV (assuming it’s a big purchase) is usually 5+ years.

  3. Can be expensive if you dont shop around, which is a dilemma: buy a cheap old model that wont have firmware support, or buy a brand spanking new one for more $.

  4. Some models dont work if there is no internet connections.

Buy a roku stick for $30 and save yourself the trouble.


#12

I really like when Google tells me what traffic will be like on my way home before I start driving…but I get why they are able to do it. Modern convenience in exchange for privacy.


#13

Just like how I really enjoy the police coming to my aid if I dial 911. But then again, know your limits aka dont run naked outside. Technological literacy needs to be a thing in school, not Sharia laws (shameless side-jab). And also finacial literacy, you will be surprised with how many 18 year-olds walking around wit credits cards into college, not knowing how credits work.


#14

Here is an old but really good article from the EFF demonstrating ways to protect yourself against online surveillance.

One of the trends we’ve seen is how, as the word of the NSA’s spying has spread, more and more ordinary people want to know how (or if) they can defend themselves from surveillance online. But where to start?

The bad news is: if you’re being personally targeted by a powerful intelligence agency like the NSA, it’s very, very difficult to defend yourself. The good news, if you can call it that, is that much of what the NSA is doing is mass surveillance on everybody. With a few small steps, you can make that kind of surveillance a lot more difficult and expensive, both against you individually, and more generally against everyone.

Here are ten steps you can take to make your own devices secure. This isn’t a complete list, and it won’t make you completely safe from spying. But every step you take will make you a little bit safer than average. And it will make your attackers, whether they’re the NSA or a local criminal, have to work that much harder.

  1. Use end-to-end encryption. We know the NSA has been working to undermine encryption, but experts like Bruce Schneier who have seen the NSA documents feel that encryption is still “your friend”. And your best friends remain open source systems that don’t share your secret key with others, are open to examination by security experts, and encrypt data all the way from one end of a conversation to the other: from your device to the person you’re chatting with. The easiest tool that achieves this end-to-end encryption is off-the-record (OTR) messaging, which gives instant messaging clients end-to-end encryption capabilities (and you can use it over existing services, such as Google Hangout and Facebook chat). Install it on your own computers, and get your friends to install it too. When you’ve done that, look into PGP–it’s tricky to use, but used well it’ll stop your email from being an open book to snoopers. (OTR isn’t the same as Google Chat’s option to “Go off the record”; you’ll need extra software to get end-to-end encryption.)
  1. Encrypt as much communications as you can. Even if you can’t do end-to-end, you can still encrypt a lot of your Internet traffic. If you use EFF’s HTTPS Everywhere browser addon for Chrome or Firefox, you can maximise the amount of web data you protect by forcing websites to encrypt webpages whenever possible. Use a virtual private network (VPN) when you’re on a network you don’t trust, like a cybercafe.
  1. Encrypt your hard drive. The latest version of Windows, Macs, iOS and Android all have ways to encrypt your local storage. Turn it on. Without it, anyone with a few minutes physical access to your computer, tablet or smartphone can copy its contents, even if they don’t have your password.
  1. Strong passwords, kept safe. Passwords these days have to be ridiculously long to be safe against crackers. That includes the password to email accounts, and passwords to unlock devices, and passwords to web services. If it’s bad to re-use passwords, and bad to use short passwords, how can you remember them all? Use a password manager. Even write down your passwords and keeping them in your wallet is safer than re-using the same short memorable password – at least you’ll know when your wallet is stolen. You can create a memorable strong master password using a random word system like that described at diceware.com.
  1. Use Tor. “Tor Stinks”, this slide leaked from GCHQ says. That shows much the intelligence services are worried about it. Tor is an the open source program that protects your anonymity online by shuffling your data through a global network of volunteer servers. If you install and use Tor, you can hide your origins from corporate and mass surveillance. You’ll also be showing that Tor is used by everyone, not just the “terrorists” that GCHQ claims.
  1. Turn on two-factor (or two-step) authentication. Google and Gmail has it; Twitter has it; Dropbox has it. Two factor authentication, where you type a password and a regularly changed confirmation number, helps protect you from attacks on web and cloud services. When available, turn it on for the services you use. If it’s not available, tell the company you want it.
  1. Don’t click on attachments. The easiest ways to get intrusive malware onto your computer is through your email, or through compromised websites. Browsers are getting better at protecting you from the worst of the web, but files sent by email or downloaded from the Net can still take complete control of your computer. Get your friends to send you information in text; when they send you a file, double-check it’s really from them.
  1. Keep software updated, and use anti-virus software. The NSA may be attempting to compromise Internet companies (and we’re still waiting to see whether anti-virus companies deliberately ignore government malware), but on the balance, it’s still better to have the companies trying to fix your software than have attackers be able to exploit old bugs.
  1. Keep extra secret information extra secure. Think about the data you have, and take extra steps to encrypt and conceal your most private data. You can use TrueCrypt to separately encrypt a USB flash drive. You might even want to keep your most private data on a cheap netbook, kept offline and only used for the purposes of reading or editing documents.
  1. Be an ally. If you understand and care enough to have read this far, we need your help. To really challenge the surveillance state, you need to teach others what you’ve learned, and explain to them why it’s important. Install OTR, Tor and other software for worried colleagues, and teach your friends how to use them. Explain to them the impact of the NSA revelations. Ask them to sign up to Stop Watching Us and other campaigns against bulk spying. Run a Tor node, or hold a cryptoparty. They need to stop watching us; and we need to start making it much harder for them to get away with it.

#15

Good article, but at this point most of this should be common sense to folks. Always use a VPN outside of the US that does not keep records of IP logs.


#16

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which ordinarily advocated for internet privacy, were huge pushers of Net Neutrality. Most of the people who went out to support it had no idea what it really meant. Now we are dealing with the effects of that. The EFF is dead in my book.