Google Has Audio Files of Everything You've Asked It

Want to listen to them?
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 20, 2015 6:00 PM CDT
Google Has Audio Files of Everything You've Asked It
Google has been keeping the audio files of everything you've ever asked it verbally. Want to hear them?   (Google via AP)

"It’s all there—my dumb voice asking dumb questions that I thought were lost into the ephemerality of Google’s search servers," Mike Murphy writes on Quartz. Murphy recently learned that not only does Google store records of all your text searches, it also keeps audio recordings of all your queries. And you can listen to them. The Guardian reports Google's history portal gives a list of everything users have ever said to OK Google, the company's voice control system for Android phones. It's part of Google's attempt to be less cagey about what personal data it's storing—including the YouTube videos you've watched and your location data. For example, the same users can also see "a private map of where you go with your signed-in devices."

But rather than being reassuring, this transparency can actually have the opposite effect. "It’s good to be able to see what the company keeps," Alex Hern writes in the Guardian. "But it’s also a stark reminder of just how much it has in the first place." Murphy calls it "unnerving." Quartz reports it's unclear why Google is holding on to the audio recordings of customers' voices. According to the Guardian, the stored audio may help improve the voice control feature generally and its recognition of users' voices personally. Should users find the existence of an audio catalog of all their conversations with Google off-putting, Quartz has instructions on how to delete the files, though the Guardian notes the only way to stop the recording is by not asking questions: Turn off voice activity, and you're still recorded, but the recording's identifier isn't tied to your account. (Last month, this guy bought for $12.)

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