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  • Cheryl Tan

Google Says They’re Not Listening To Your Conversations

Updated: Aug 21, 2021

Ever seen an ad for a product or service right after you spoke about it to your family or friends and thought: “Oh no, my phone/Google Assistant must be listening to me!”? Well, Google says they aren’t.

google assistant

Credit: Google

In fact, Google says that Google Assistant is built to remain in standby mode until the activation phrase “OK Google” or “Hey Google” is said. So what are some reasons that ads show up at such a coincidental time?

The company says it could be due to a myriad of factors, including Google search history, browsing history, apps used or even just because you’re more sensitised to seeing the brand because you were thinking about it.

But what if you never searched for the product? I had a situation a few years ago, where a friend mentioned a restaurant I had never tried before, and a few hours later, I saw an ad about the restaurant. I never searched for the restaurant, visited it or used any restaurant booking apps that might have had a connection to it. So I asked Greg Fair, Product Manager, Privacy Data Protection at Google about my experience.

He offered a couple of possible explanations as to why it happened. The first was that the ad provider wasn’t Google, and the second was simply that I was more sensitive to the restaurant’s ads after the conversation with my friend.

Google assistant

True enough, those reasons could be the case, but no matter what, it definitely won’t feel comfortable to most people to see an ad pop up right after they have a conversation about the product, restaurant or service. If you’re concerned about your privacy, there are definitely ways to make sure that your phone isn’t listening to you, whether it’s by turning Google Assistant off or going through the list of apps allowed to use your microphone and trimming it back to just the apps that you trust to keep your data safe.


Written by Cheryl Tan

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