Is Google Recording Us?

How many times have you accidentally activated your Siri or your Google Assistant or your Amazon Alexa? We’re guessing you’ve had numerous occasions when your voice technology has unexpectedly come to life. We all have.

Mostly, these moments make us laugh. But at our web design company Manchester we’ve noticed how the press has highlighted a potentially unsettlingly side to all this.

The devices rely on the concept of having a “wake word” – such as “OK Google” – but they often mishear phrases and spring into action when you don’t want them. In reality, they’re always “awake” because they have to listen out for the relevant command to make them perform a task. And then, when activated, they record your requests or conversations.

In this blog from our website design Manchester based agency, we’ll explore some of the issues around the technology.

What’s The Big Deal?

It’s been revealed that just saying “OK” in conversation can have the effect of turning on Google’s Assistant. And, according to some newspaper reports that we’ve read here at our web design company Manchester, the Assistant will then record your private chat for around 20 seconds.

This can also mean that the Assistant regularly switches on its microphone throughout the day, while you remain oblivious to its secret recordings.

What happened in Portland, Oregan?

Google isn’t the only multinational tech company having issues with such recordings. One story in America explained how a family in Portland, Oregan had a private discussion recorded by their Amazon Echo. And then their chat was sent to a random contact.

In response, Amazon has said that the Echo thought it heard a word that sounded like “Alexa”. In a statement, the company said: “The subsequent conversation was heard as a ‘send message’ request. At which point, Alexa said out loud ‘To whom?’ At which point, the background conversation was interpreted as a name in the customer’s contact list.”

Amazon also said this kind of situation very rarely happens and it is “evaluating options to make this case even less likely”.

But What Happens To The Recordings?

Here at our website design Manchester agency we’ve noticed how large tech companies ­– such as Google – are coming under increased scrutiny from the press and public. Issues around privacy and what these companies know about us have become topics of great debate.

So, this leads on to the question of what happens to these accidental recordings and other requests we make?  


Well, Amazon and Google save every single one. They do this for “transparency” but they also use such material to help them improve their voice recognition and artificial intelligence systems. They also allow you – through the Alexa app and Google’s user activity site – to delete these past recordings.

Apple, in comparison, also keeps Siri recordings, but can’t access them and they become anonymous after six months.

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