Google smart speakers offer guest mode for privacy

To fully understand what guest mode does, it helps to understand what information a smart speaker collects.

First, it can keep track of everything you say as an audio file and a written transcript (“Hey, Google, turn off my desk light.”)

Google allows you to view and delete these recordings and transcriptions and configure the speakerphone so that they are not saved or deleted automatically.

But even when configured so that recordings aren’t saved, your smart speaker keeps a log of your activity, which can be used to create a profile of your behavior. He knows, for example, that you asked for the office light to be turned off at 8:03 p.m. on Tuesday.

When in Guest mode, the speaker no longer keeps a record of interactions like these.

“In guest mode, your interactions with the assistant will be immediately deleted, just like going to the My Activity tab in the Home app and clicking ‘delete’, but you don’t have to do this step”, a a Google spokesperson said in an email to Consumer Reports.

Guest mode can also be turned off by voice command (“Hey, Google, turn off guest mode”). You can also ask the speaker if guest mode is on.

Google has introduced a number of other privacy enhancements that make it easier for consumers to use its smart speakers. The Google Assistant can now answer security questions (“Hey, Google, how do you keep my information private?”) And quickly delete what you say (“Hey, Google, delete what I just said” or “Hey, Google, delete everything I said this week.”)

The company also allows you to adjust the speaker’s sensitivity to the activation word “Hey, Google”. In the Google Home app, select the Home button on the left, then the device name> Settings> Hey Google sensitivity and adjust the slider.

As researchers at Northeastern University have demonstrated, smart speakers often start recording after hearing a phrase that resembles the wake word, although they quickly stop recording when the error becomes apparent.

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