Android Security

Your Phone Is Secretly Always Recording: How to Stop Google From Listening

Ben Stegner Updated 20-12-2019

Is your Android phone always listening to you? Does Google keep a log of everything you say? And if so, what can you do about it?

Advertisement

In an age where every device has a microphone and they’re made by companies who love to track what you do, these are valid questions. Let’s take a look at the facts behind Google’s recordings and how to stop your phone from listening to you.

Is Google Always Listening on Android?

Before we continue, we should explain what exactly Google records from your Android device.

If you have a certain setting enabled on your phone, saying OK Google will cause it to listen for a command. Before you say this wake phrase, your phone is listening for the OK Google hotword, but it is not recording everything you say and uploading it to Google. Just like with concerns over the Amazon Echo, constantly recording everything a device hears would result in enormous amounts of useless data.

Even if you don’t have the OK Google hotword enabled, you can still use voice commands (which Google records too). Tapping the microphone icon on the search bar or holding the Home button to open Google Assistant will both immediately prompt you for a voice command.

What Google does record are the voice commands you say to your phone. If you say OK Google, how old is Jack Black?, Google holds onto the question and a few seconds of prior audio.

Advertisement

How Do I Listen to My Google Recordings?

Google provides a portal for you to view all your interactions with its services. This includes voice recordings of your interactions with Google Assistant. You can view this on your phone through the Google category in the Settings app, but it’s a bit easier on the web:

  1. Head to the Google My Activity page. You’ll see everything from YouTube videos you’ve watched to apps you’ve opened on your phone.
  2. Apply a filter to only show voice recordings by clicking Filter by date & product at the top, under the search bar.
  3. Next, click Deselect All under Filter by Google product, then select only Voice and Audio.
  4. Click Apply.

Google Show All Audio Activity

You’ll then see a timeline of all the recordings Google has of your voice, starting with the most recent. Click Details under an entry to see when it occurred, then choose View recording to hear it.

Advertisement

By default, this page bundles close events together. Click a bundle to expand it if necessary, or choose Item view at the top-left to see them all individually.

How to Stop Google From Listening on Android

You can disable Google’s voice recording with a certain toggle in your Android settings. If you like, you can also go further after changing this.

Turn Off “OK Google” on Your Phone

The first is to turn off the OK Google detection on your phone, which you can do by performing the following:

  1. Open Settings on your phone and enter the Google category.
  2. Under Services, select Account services.
  3. Next, tap Search, Assistant & Voice.
  4. Hit Voice on the resulting page.
  5. You’ll see a Voice Match entry; tap it.
  6. Disable the Access with Voice Match slider to disable OK Google detection.
    1. You may also want to disable While driving to prevent it in Google Maps and Android Auto, though it is convenient in those scenarios.
  7. If you want to erase Google’s profile of your voice used for this feature, select Delete voice model.

Advertisement

Once you do this, Google Assistant will not respond to OK Google. Previously, it still would when you had the Google app open, but in our testing it did not respond even with Google search open or on the home screen.

Your phone thus will no longer always be listening for the hotword.

Turn Off Microphone Access for the Google App

To go further, you can deny the Google app permission to access your microphone:

  1. Open Settings on your phone and select Apps & notifications.
  2. Tap See all X apps to get a full list.
  3. Scroll down to Google and select it.
  4. Tap Permissions and select the Microphone option.
  5. Choose to Deny the permission.

Advertisement

Disable Google Assistant

If you’d like, you can completely disable the Google Assistant instead:

  1. Open Settings on your phone and enter the Google category.
  2. Select Account Services > Search, Assistant & Voice.
  3. Tap Google Assistant.
  4. Switch to the Assistant tab along the top.
  5. Scroll down to the Assistant devices section and choose your device name (likely Phone).
  6. Slide the Google Assistant toggle off to disable it.

Turn Off Google Voice History

Turning off OK Google or Google Assistant on your Android phone doesn’t do anything for other devices you may own, such as a tablet or Google Home device. Plus, Google can still keep voice data if you search by voice in Chrome. To pause voice history for your entire Google account, perform the following steps:

  1. Visit Google’s Activity Controls page and sign into your account if needed.
  2. Find the Web & App Activity section.
  3. Uncheck the box labeled Include voice and audio recordings to prevent Google from linking your voice activity with your account.

Google Pause Voice Activity

Doing this will limit Google from storing voice-related functions with your account, which is your objective in the first place.

Once you do this, you should also delete the past recordings Google has kept. Be aware that doing this will delete all web activity connected to your Google account, not just voice recordings. To delete past activity:

  1. Return to the Google My Activity page.
  2. Click Delete activity by on the left side.
  3. Select All time to delete everything, or Custom range to define your own time period. Click Delete to erase everything you’ve selected.

Google Delete Activity By

Automatically Delete Google History After a Set Time

Google now allows you to automatically delete activity after a certain amount of time has passed. This reduces the amount of information the company keeps about you without you having to do it manually all the time.

On the same Google My Activity page, click Choose to delete automatically. This lets you choose to delete your activity after three months, 18 months, or only when you delete it manually.

Google Auto Delete Web Activity

This isn’t necessary if you’ve turned off voice data, as discussed above. If you left voice data enabled, keep in mind that this will remove all web activity, not just voice recordings.

What Does Google Do With Voice Data?

It’s important to note that aside from Google, only you can access your voice data. That is, of course, unless Google was breached.

Google explains that it uses your voice activity to help you get better results across its products, in ways like:

  • Learning the sound of your voice.
  • Understanding how you say words and phrases.
  • Recognizing when you say OK Google.
  • Improving speech recognition across Google products that use your voice.

This is all useful, but a giant corporation keeping records of what you say is nonetheless concerning. An algorithm could easily parse through this information to figure out what you’re interested in based on what you say.

It’s possible that voice data is also used for targeted ads Does Your Phone Listen to You for Ads? (Or Is It Just Coincidence?) Your phone has a built-in microphone, but is it listening to you? Is your smartphone sharing your secrets with Google or Facebook? Read More .

Using Google Without Voice

Unless you turn off Google Assistant, you can still enjoy its benefits even without using your voice.

After you’ve opened Google Assistant, tap the keyboard icon in the corner. This lets you type out a command for Google Assistant. It will respond just like if you had spoken it.

This isn’t as convenient, but that’s the cost of increased privacy. Of course, by using Google Assistant at all, Google is still able to see what you’re interested in and track you. If you’d rather avoid this, try DuckDuckGo instead.

Is My Phone Listening? You’re in Control

We’ve gone over what Google listens for on your Android phone, how to delete your voice history data, and the methods for stopping this recording. You may suffer a bit of inconvenience by disabling these features, but knowing that Google isn’t keeping a log of what you say is worth it.

If you’re concerned about other methods Google uses to know what you’re up to, check out additional ways Google can track you. For a completely Google-free phone, we have a guide on how to use Android and ditch Google How to Use Android Without Google: Everything You Need to Know Want to use Android without Google? No Google, no problem. Here's a guide to going Google-free on your Android device to regain privacy. Read More .

Related topics: Android Tips, Google Assistant, Smartphone Privacy, User Tracking, Voice Commands.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Mila
    July 10, 2020 at 1:21 pm

    What about iPhone? It probably has the same problem.

  2. Stephen Russell
    June 12, 2020 at 3:12 pm

    Mine is turned off in the grey side for Voice model

  3. Bub Ba
    June 12, 2020 at 2:29 pm

    The instructions provided in the article to listen to my Google recordings do not work. It says:

    How Do I Listen to My Google Recordings?

    Google provides a portal for you to view all your interactions with its services. This includes voice recordings of your interactions with Google Assistant. You can view this on your phone through the Google category in the Settings app, but it’s a bit easier on the web:

    Head to the Google My Activity page. You’ll see everything from YouTube videos you’ve watched to apps you’ve opened on your phone.
    Apply a filter to only show voice recordings by clicking Filter by date & product at the top, under the search bar.

    When i visit the page mentioned all i see is "Filter by Date" not "Filter by date & product". Thus no way apparently to get at the voice recordings.

  4. Christine
    December 23, 2019 at 3:55 am

    I turned off the microphone - Th for advice but I wanted to know if you can get rid of the icon on the Google search bar as my fat fingers keep hitting it and it still goes to the "listening "screen?

  5. Greg
    November 20, 2019 at 1:34 pm

    Another useless article. If nothing is saved, then how come I can mention any type of activity or celebrity, and days later I'm getting flooded with ads about what was talked about over dinner while my phone was in my pocket?

  6. Subaiyal
    August 23, 2019 at 6:29 pm

    Foolish person says recording everything will result in enormous amount of useless data. Well, Google can easily convert voice to text and an hour long speech will not take more than 200kb of data just in plain text.
    Google does record your voice in text form but as far as I think they use the data for advertisment purposes.

  7. James Cook
    July 9, 2019 at 5:07 pm

    You think that changing the permissions is going to help? Google arent constrained by their own permissions api. Its nuts to think they are. They wrote the api that develpoers use but they have access at all levels because they wrote a lot of the code for android. Infact, a lot is not available to the public to access. Funnily enough, those bits are always where id put my hooks as a programmer to get what i need. They have root access to devices, and the filesystem. Ive looked deeply into a lot of google code and processes and so many dont make sense unless they are for what they apparently dont do. As a programmer reading their terms i see what is important to them and how they structure their data. They are fooling the uk government which isnt hard with a system of data collection that makes no sense as to the purpose they provide. The uk information commissioner doesnt understand his own job well enough to be able to understand what i put to them.

  8. James Cook
    July 9, 2019 at 4:46 pm

    Christ, read their terms. Their tireless omissions speak volumes about how they collect data and why the facade of privacy doesnt bother them but covers them from further inspection. They have strange processes that make no sense except to gather information. They dont want information thats less specific than other forms. They survive off data as their business. They dont give you the option not to share. Theres not the space here, but they collect data on you many times over in overlapping ways. Theres no escape. You could buy a non smartphone and quit any internet use and still be in trouble. Make sure it has no bluetooth, internet, wifi, and btw, dont call any people with smartphones, oh, and you think then youre fine? Theres more.....oh, and dont use chrome or google search on your smartphone and you think youll be fine? The first 2 alternatives i tried were problematic. Yahoo and firefox, both caused connections to google. Urgghhh... and this is the very very start......it goes so much deeper....... i sound nuts, but i just cant be bothered to justify each statement with my findings.......i will if anyone wants to do an article.

  9. Paul Schrum
    May 27, 2019 at 12:28 am

    I disabled Google Assistant about a week ago. I am still get ads for topics I have only talked about in face-to-face conversations. I decided to do the most radical thing and deny Google App permissions to the Microphone. (I hope that really even works.)

    Dear Google, this recording everything all the time breaks your oath of "do no evil." Please stop doing it.

    • Jim cook
      July 9, 2019 at 4:41 pm

      They scrapped that oath recently btw. Probably because its existence caused ppl to ask why they created it in the first place and it seems more sinister to have it

  10. zylstra
    April 6, 2019 at 12:56 am

    "but it is not recording everything you say and uploading it to Google" - Google doesn't need to do this. Google only needs to have a list of (ten of thousands of) keywords stored locally then upload only those that it thinks are relevant.

  11. name
    September 16, 2018 at 6:00 pm

    "does not record until it hears hot word/phrase"...
    which means it is constantly listening and sending words off to google cloud computing to be analyzed to see if it IS the keyphrase ...

    • James Bruce
      September 17, 2018 at 11:46 am

      No, that's why a specific wake word needs to be used: for local analysis on the device.

  12. Sandy
    July 28, 2018 at 4:43 pm

    I have Voice & Audio Activity paused and I still get a message saying "saving audio to gmail account" everytime I press the microphone. So it doesn't appear that I can stop Google from saving my speech when I use the microphone. The only way I can keep Google from saving audio is not to use the microphone at all. Very dissappointing.

  13. Heidi
    July 23, 2018 at 9:22 am

    Thank you so much for this! This morning I wanted to take a screenshot for the very first time and wondered out loud how to do it. Then I only typed 'how to make a' into Google search and it came up with '.... screenshot on a samsung' as first choice. Then I get an email saying my service has been 'upgraded' to Google Assistant'. Coincidence? I think not. The Google support pages were useless in finding out how to restrict this insidious software; it may have taken me an hour to work through it all but your simple instructions have helped me so much - I am not a Luddite but decry the underhand tracking and algorithms following my mobile use (and really I just want a phone!) Remember, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you!

  14. Lolicon
    June 10, 2018 at 11:10 am

    Google is always listening, i was talking to someone about some led lights for car and guess what ads i got on chrome... car led lights.

  15. Eep
    June 6, 2018 at 7:32 am

    No "OK Google" option in Android 7 on Moto G4.

  16. Stewart Daniels
    March 18, 2018 at 7:34 am

    I went a step better. I removed Google Now from my device(s). Never been a fan of data grabbing/ tracking/ geolocating/ learning my face/ fingerprint, or voice for my 'Conveinience'. To me, it's invasive and creepy.

  17. Xane Myers
    March 4, 2018 at 11:49 pm

    There's something else that can be done during the last step: Go into Google Assistant's settings, "phone", then there's an option named "preferred input", which can be set to keyboard. This does the same thing as tapping the keyboard icon when Assistant appears, but you don't have to quickly tap that button every time.

  18. Renlikedindin
    February 27, 2018 at 5:58 am

    Well this was very informative ? And I thought I was tech savvy ? ha! Nope We as humans will learn new good stuff till we die. I guess we being watched also through our ? ? we do permission to do so. I guess placing black tape on camera lens can stop it.

  19. Trinity
    February 23, 2018 at 7:37 am

    do you have a comparable article for iPhones? thanks!

    • Ben Stegner
      February 23, 2018 at 3:27 pm

      We don't have an article specifically addressing this for iPhone, but we do have an article on smartphones in general listening:

      //www.makeuseof.com/tag/your-smartphone-listening-or-coincidence/

      We may be able to write an article like this about iPhone if there's enough material. Thanks for the suggestion!

  20. Lori
    February 21, 2018 at 4:47 am

    So I don't have "voice and audio" listed under the options for filters. What does that mean?

  21. IRS iTunes Card
    February 16, 2018 at 3:22 am

    STOP THE DAMN ANTI-BLOCKING MESSAGES ! YOU WILL GET BLOCKED ON CHROME 65 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  22. dragonmouth
    February 16, 2018 at 12:40 am

    "Google explains that it uses your voice activity to help you get better results across its products"
    Sounds like one of the Three Big Lies:
    We're from Google, we're here to help you.