Google Inc. recently sat down to address some of the biggest security concerns that users have while using the tech giant’s products and services. From Google Assistant to ads and marketing, the short QandA, which the company posted on its blog, is trying to dispel some of the common myths that users might have.
Assistance on Assistant
With the first question demanding whether Google Assistant has been eavesdropping on everything users say, Google gave a switch “No” in reply. The company said that unless it is activated by saying “Hey Google” or “OK Google”, the product has been designed to remain in a standby mode. It can process short audio snippets to look out for activation. If no activity is detected, the audio snippets are not sent to or saved by Google Inc. or anyone for that matter. Once activated, the Assistant comes out of its slumber, which can be noticed through the status indicator.
Moreover, users now have the ability to adjust Assistant’s sensitivity to activation phrases through the Google Home app. Cameras and mics can also be turned off at will, and the indicator displays their activation status.
Another cool option is deleting the Google Assistant activity, which can be carried out through simple voice commands like, “Hey Google, delete this week’s activity.” The same status will be visible on the My Activity page, which is another way users can review or delete their activity across all their Google products. “Hey Google, turn on Guest Mode” will make Assistant fall into Guest Mode, preventing any interactions from being saved.
Targeted Ads and Location Data
Moving over to its targeted ads, Google explained that the algorithm makes ad suggestions based on previous searches, visited sites, ads clicked on, etc., among others. It further clarified that user data helps it “personalize ads” to be useful to the customers. At the same time, sensitive information like documents or passwords, and personal data like names, race, and religion, among others, are not relied on for targeting adverts. Users can direct or disable ad personalization through the Ad Settings page.
Finally, the company also says that personal information is not shared with any third party, including advertisers—moreover, apps where personal data is usually stored, like Gmail, Calendar, and Drive. Additionally, incognito mode is always there to make life easier.
It also tried to justify the need for location information by saying it helps with easy navigation or knowing about the traffic. However, at the same time, the firm also admitted that turning location sharing “ON” (it is off by default) will make Maps share bits of location data back to Google for recognizing traffic.
Additionally, it also says that users can, at any time, get to know what data the user keeps track of through the Google Dashboard. Activity Control and Ad Settings make it possible to control the extent and type of data accessed.