Google Privacy

Google Assistant Adds New Commands in an Attempt to Ease Privacy Worries

Google Assistant has two new commands designed to improve user privacy and make people feel more comfortable with the voice assistant. Google debuted the new orders as part of a slate of new features for the voice assistant at CES this week.

Not For You Google

One of the new commands, “Hey Google, are you saving my audio data?” is more about educating the user than actually adjusting what the voice assistant does with its information. When prompted by that order, Google Assistant will tell you what your current privacy settings are and what they mean. If asked on a smart display or another device with a screen, the privacy control settings page will come up and you can adjust it as you choose.

The other new command actually adjusts what the voice assistant has stored up. If you notice an accidental awakening of Google Assistant, you can tell the device, “Hey Google, that wasn’t for you,” and Google Assistant will erase the most recent audio it picked up. Accidentally awakening a voice assistant is somewhat common, as Voicebot’s own research has found. More than a quarter of smart speaker users have a false wake-up at least once a day and whatever is picked up by the voice assistant for those few seconds is recorded like everything else. A quick command to delete it is a good feature addition. Of course, the problem is that it does not account for all the accidental awakenings that you aren’t aware of at the moment.

Public Fight for Privacy

The new commands are part of Google’s ongoing effort to restore trust in Google Assistant after it was revealed last July that contractors hired by the company listen to snippets of audio recorded by the voice assistant. Google subsequently paused the program for review and ended up changing its policy for Google Assistant’s data. Google vice president Scott Huffman told Voicebot in an interview at CES that Google Assistant users have always needed to opt-in to its quality control and improvement activities. The updated features are aimed at streamlining the way users control what they record and share, he explained. The new commands aren’t the first Google added to its voice assistant to reassure people. Google made it possible to delete Google Assistant data by voice in November.

Google was hardly alone in having to grapple with voice assistant privacy as nearly every voice assistant developer faced similar reports and backlash. Apple and Amazon both made changes to their privacy rules as a result. All of these companies want people to feel comfortable using their voice assistants. That isn’t easy, especially as reports keep highlighting privacy as a central factor making people reluctant to use the technology. The recent report that Google had to block Xiaomi from its Google Nest platform over a security camera showing images from other people’s cameras don’t help. Google Assistant’s work to earn people’s trust likely won’t ever end, but the new privacy commands are necessary to reach that goal.


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