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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?
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.
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.
- Next, click Deselect All under Filter by Google product, then select only Voice and Audio.
- Click Apply.
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.
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:
- Open Settings on your phone and enter the Google category.
- Under Services, select Account services.
- Next, tap Search, Assistant & Voice.
- Hit Voice on the resulting page.
- You’ll see a Voice Match entry; tap it.
- Disable the Access with Voice Match slider to disable OK Google detection.
- You may also want to disable While driving to prevent it in Google Maps and Android Auto, though it is convenient in those scenarios.
- If you want to erase Google’s profile of your voice used for this feature, select Delete voice model.
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:
- Open Settings on your phone and select Apps & notifications.
- Tap See all X apps to get a full list.
- Scroll down to Google and select it.
- Tap Permissions and select the Microphone option.
- Choose to Deny the permission.
Disable Google Assistant
If you’d like, you can completely disable the Google Assistant instead:
- Open Settings on your phone and enter the Google category.
- Select Account Services > Search, Assistant & Voice.
- Tap Google Assistant.
- Switch to the Assistant tab along the top.
- Scroll down to the Assistant devices section and choose your device name (likely Phone).
- 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:
- Visit Google’s Activity Controls page and sign into your account if needed.
- Find the Web & App Activity section.
- Uncheck the box labeled Include voice and audio recordings to prevent Google from linking your voice activity with your account.
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:
- Return to the Google My Activity page.
- Click Delete activity by on the left side.
- Select All time to delete everything, or Custom range to define your own time period. Click Delete to erase everything you’ve selected.
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.
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.
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.