Google could have a record of everything you have said around it for years, and you can listen to it yourself.
The company quietly records many of the conversations that people have around its products. The feature works as a way of letting people search with their voice, and storing those recordings presumably lets Google improve its language recognition tools as well as the results that it gives to people.
But it also comes with an easy way of listening to and deleting all of the information that it collects. That’s done through a special page that brings together the information that Google has on you. It’s found by heading to Google’s history page and looking at the long list of recordings. The company has a specific audio page and another for activity on the web, which will show you everywhere Google has a record of you being on the internet.
The new portal was introduced in June 2015 and so has been active for the last year – meaning that it is now probably full of various things you have said, which you thought might have been in private.
The recordings can function as a kind of diary, reminding you of the various places and situations that you and your phone have been in. But it’s also a reminder of just how much information is collected about you, and how intimate that information can be.
You'll see more if you've an Android phone, which can be activated at any time just by saying "OK, Google". But you may well also have recordings on there whatever devices you've interacted with Google using.
On the page, you can listen through all of the recordings. You can also see information about how the sound was recorded – whether it was through the Google app or elsewhere – as well as any transcription of what was said if Google has turned it into text successfully.
But perhaps the most useful – and least cringe-inducing – reason to visit the page is to delete everything from there, should you so wish. That can be done either by selecting specific recordings or deleting everything in one go.
To delete particular files, you can click the check box on the left and then move back to the top of the page and select “delete”. To get rid of everything, you can press the “More” button, select “Delete options” and then “Advanced” and click through.
The easiest way to stop Google recording everything is to turn off the virtual assistant and never to use voice search. But that solution also gets at the central problem of much privacy and data use today – doing so cuts off one of the most useful things about having an Android phone or using Google search.