How To Prevent Smart Devices From Reviewing Your Conversations

  • By: Josh Koop
  • Date: June 23, 2021
  • Time to read: 4 min.
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If there is one question posed online the most often it is “Do smart devices record me?”. This is most definitely a yes in more cases then you probably are aware, when you interact with, for example, Siri, your voice is recorded and used to better help the AI understand people. If you are someone that is bothered by this ability to use your voice for their needs then you can opt-out of many of the services.

How To Prevent Smart Devices From Reviewing Your Conversations: Yes, you are able to prevent the companies from reviewing conversations held in their area. Some companies have fully stopped this process and others actually provide opt-outs on the settings. These are in your EULA you sign when configuring the devices, make sure you read these carefully.

Since we explained that it is possible to opt-out above and that you can stop most of the reviewing process on your account lets look into how each company manages this process on their own. This way you can figure out which ones apply to you the most and where you should target your efforts for the maximum values.

What Is Google’s Stance On Manual Reviews?

Google, similar to others has currently suspended the manual interpretations of recordings after the Guardian posted about it. They may be evaluating the policy or they may be waiting for this to blow over, only time will tell and that’s important to remember.

Google Home on a desk - How To Prevent Smart Devices From Reviewing Your Conversations
Smart Home Is Nice But Can Give Away Data

How To Disable The Microphone on Google Devices

  • On the Google Home, press the microphone mute button on the back of the device to mute and unmute. 
  • On the Google Nest Mini and the Google Home Mini, slide the switch next to the power cord. The switch will display orange when the microphone is turned off.
  • On the Google Home Max, slide the switch on the back of the device. The switch will display orange when the microphone is turned off.
  • On the Google Nest Wifi, slide the switch next to the power cord. The switch will display orange when the microphone is turned off.

Additional Disabling

You can disable Google from listening to you in the same settings section that stops Google from monitoring your every move for Google Maps, which tracks you even if the app isn’t opened. 

When you click it off, Google will beg you not to, saying this “may limit or disable more personalized experiences across Google services. For example, Google may not understand you when you say “OK, Google” to speak to your Assistant.”

And it reminds you that turning off the setting won’t delete any of the past data Google recorded. To get rid of those, you’ll need to go to https://myactivity.google.com.

Don’t forget once there to click Web and App Activity and “Choose to Delete Automatically,” to stop Google from continuing the recordings. 

What Is Apple’s Stance On Manual Reviews?

Apple recently has put a hold, or temporary suspension, on manual reviews of interactions with their Siri functionality after information came to light on the fact that people were listening to interactions with the tool.

What Is Amazon’s Stance On Manual Reviews?

Unlike Apple and Google, Amazon did not stop the process but has provided a user option to “opt-out” of the process. Their old process where you could set the Alexa permissions so that they couldn’t be used to develop newer features could, in theory, remove you from the manual review process also.

This is up for interpretation though as it wasn’t actually outlined in the settings when you were to make this choice. Now there is a specific opt-out option by going to:

  • Settings
  • Alexa Privacy
  • Manage How Your Data Improves Alexa
  • Toggle The Off-Setting For:
    • With this setting on, your voice recordings may be used to develop new features and manually reviewed to help improve our services. Only an extremely small fraction of voice recordings are manually reviewed.
  • Amazon Echo – Echo devices, staffed by Alexa, are equipped with a microphone off button that you can turn off and on. When the button is pressed, the power to the microphones is disconnected and a red light is illuminated. 

Final Thoughts

The only way to be certain that you aren’t being recorded and used to improve the voice recognition of the software is to remove them from your house overall. If you are planning to run this in your house then you must assume the fact that anything said within the sphere of the device can and will be listened to for improving the system performance.

In a day in age where there are cameras on every street and highway, not counting on every neighbor’s house you long ago gave up your rights to privacy. You can make changes though to at least limit the options they have to listen but without having this information they wouldn’t have the voice recognition that exists.

Sometimes to move forward and get the awesome potential to ask questions with your words and receive answers from a computer without effort means giving up some of that liberty and freedom.

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