by Swapnil Bhartiya

No, Google isn’t ‘secretly’ storing your voice

Oct 14, 2015
MobileOpen SourceSmall and Medium Business

More to the point: They're storing your voice, but there's nothing secret about it

Some news outlets are reporting that Google is secretly recording your voice and are offering instructions for finding what’s been captured and deleting it.

There’s just one problem: It’s not secret. Or, at least, you not being aware of something doesn’t make it a secret.

If you visit the privacy settings of Google Search it specifically states that it will store your search history on its servers and that you can access it and delete it. What Google doesn’t do is separate voice search from keyed-in search. The same rules apply to both.

voice audio

The history page clearly shows search history in different modes.

Google has always saved the history of searched terms to further improve its services, and they’ve been transparent about this from the beginning. From Google’s point of view, voice search is just an extension of the ‘regular’ or text search. And you can readily see the mode of search in your history.

I would be concerned if it were discovered that Google was secretly recording voice outside of search, in a way not covered by its privacy policy. if Google were recording every single conversation around phones with Google Voice search enabled, that would be cause for concern. That’s not the case.

The huge amounts of data that we are creating can be a valuable asset to improve user experience. I would prefer that Google show me Indian restaurants near Washington DC based on my recent searches instead of showing me a random bar in a faraway city.

So before you get all worked up, think about how you use search and whether you want to delete your history or at least anonymize it (you can turn off the voice activity so that even if Google records your search terms they can’t be traced back to you). Google gives users have complete control over the management of their search history. It’s up to you whether you want to take that control.