Trying to have a private conversation without your Google Home smart speaker listening in? Well, the Google Home app now has a solution for you, in the form of a sensitivity slider that lets you limit the speaker’s ability to hear quiet or far-off voices.
The slider offers three settings – Default, Least Responsive, and Most Responsive – to vary how well Google Assistant can pick up your voice. It’s worth trying out all three and seeing how loud you need to be for your voice to be registered, and ensure you’re getting some semblance of privacy, without rendering the smart speaker useless at hearing you at all.
This may sound counterintuitive: after all, don’t you want your smart speaker to hear your commands? But if you’re conscious of privacy, and want your conversations to remain private, Google Home's new slider may be what you need.
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Smart speakers can often misinterpret sounds for their respective wake words – the commands that bring the smart assistant to attention. For Google, that’s “Hey, Google” or “OK, Google”, while Alexa answers simply to “Alexa” (with the option to change to “Echo” or “Computer” in your Alexa app if you wish).
Finally, the Google Home app is about to add "Hey Google" sensitivity options for each Google Assistant device.https://t.co/a7R2pxLCLI pic.twitter.com/LJ6GpAj7CYApril 21, 2020
None of your business
There have been a fair few privacy-violating bugs in the past few years, with the likes of Alexa and Google Assistant accidentally recording conversations, or even sending audio files to your personal contacts. Google and Amazon also use real-life audio recordings to help train their voice assistants, meaning you can’t always be sure how many ears a simple “Google” command will fall on.
In-home voice assistants are a relatively new technology, and while issues like these are still being ironed out, it’s reassuring to have a bit more control over how well they can eavesdrop on your conversations at home. It may just be an argument over the dishwasher, but that doesn’t mean we want Google to know about it.
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Henry is a freelance technology journalist, and former News & Features Editor for TechRadar, where he specialized in home entertainment gadgets such as TVs, projectors, soundbars, and smart speakers. Other bylines include Edge, T3, iMore, GamesRadar, NBC News, Healthline, and The Times.