How many times have you said, “OK, Google,” and asked a question? Turns out you can find out, because the company not only records your voice but stores it too.
Not sure you believe it? Go ahead and check out your personal Google audio history page (make sure you’re logged in to Google first). There you will see a dated list of all the audible commands and questions you’ve hurled at your device, with a handy playback button so you can revel in hearing your dulcet tones.
Google has your voice and audio activity listed among the rest of the data it stores on your personal history page, with the clear caveat that only you can see the data it presents to you. That said, it does leave users with a feeling of unease, because as we peruse what is being tracked, we realize how expansive this data is.
You can turn off voice activity controls through this same interface — simply select to pause voice activity, and you’re good to go. However, you should note that this really doesn’t keep Google from recording and storing your voice commands at all. It will still do that, but the results will now be anonymous and harder to pin to one specific user.
Deleting existing recordings is just as simple, but it can be time-consuming. When viewing your voice history, you can select the box to the left of each one (or click on the date for a day’s worth of entries). Click “delete,” and you’re all done. Of course, you have to do them day by day, as there unfortunately doesn’t seem to be a “delete all” option.
Same goes for the rest of your Google history. Voice recordings is definitely not where it begins — or ends. A quick browse through the selections will show you all of your Google searches, your YouTube views and searches and your location history, which even helpfully pins all your recent locations on a handy map.
Deleting your app, search and YouTube history is exactly the same as deleting your voice recordings. Go to the appropriate page, and manually select each date whose histories you want to get rid of. Web and app history collection can be paused here, and YouTube video watch history can be paused here. Want to pause your YouTube search history collection? You can do it here. Pausing location history collection can be found at the bottom of your location page.
Google maintains that this information is only used to better your online experience, tailoring apps and features for a better personal environment, but it also uses some of it for better ad placement, keeping them relevant to your interests and location.
But it isn’t much of a stretch to think that consumers are baffled as to why the actual voice commands are recorded and stored — wouldn’t the text of those commands be enough? Either way, the good news is that we can take a few steps to keep the data collection to a minimum, and it’s good to know we can control what’s on Google’s servers.