Google on iOS Adds Shortcut to Delete 15 Minutes of Voice Search on Request
Google for iOS just added a shortcut to delete the last 15 minutes of your voice search history.
— ⌗ChrisMessina (@chrismessina) April 11, 2021
Google has added a shortcut on iOS devices that will delete the previous 15 minutes of a user’s voice search history. First shared on Twitter by Chris Messina, the new shortcut simplifies removing recent recordings made by Google on the device, expanding the voice privacy features beyond Google Assistant and into the broader sphere of Google’s recordings.
Listen and Forget
Apple added Google searches via Siri early in 2020, giving the voice assistant the option to trawl with Google using custom voice commands. The shortcut lets users say, “Hey Siri, Search Google for [Blank]” and have the Google search app pull things up. The idea was to combine Siri’s control of iOS devices with the Google searches a lot of people default to online. Google Assistant for iOS started supporting Shortcuts a year before that point, but including Google Search in Shortcuts made sense as a compromise. Apple has often been reluctant to share control of Siri with other developers.
Including the ability to delete all those voice searches for the last 15 minutes in a shortcut fits with Google’s ongoing effort to reassure people that using its voice services is safe and secure. The option to delete the current day, previous day, or entire history of voice search has been available as an option, but the 15 minutes in the shortcut makes it possible to be really on top of your voice recordings without having to manually delete them all the time.
The shortcut fits with some of Google’s other efforts in this goal, and not just on iOS. The company recently began a new program to limit the accidental awakening of Google Assistant on Android. Google wants its voice assistant to assess accurately when someone awakens it. It’s using a federated learning model to do so without having to process the audio in the cloud or store recordings of people’s voices on its servers. Instead, near activations, when the device thinks it hears something that sounds like Hey Google but holds off, are recorded onto the device and are encrypted. The processing happens locally when the phone is charging and connected to Wi-Fi. Only a log of changes that the device uses to improve wake word detection is sent to Google’s servers.
That program is itself the outgrowth over wanting to customize wake word sensitivity on smart speakers and displays. An early 2020 survey found that two-thirds of voice assistant users have accidentally awakened a voice assistant over the course of a month, and an academic study last summer compiled a list of more than 1,000 terms that can activate Google Assistant, Alexa, or Siri by mistake. The shortcut eliminates concern over human review of audio recordings, which caused a furor requiring Google to pause, then make an opt-in program.