Google’s Voice Search Extension (beta) captures your query and some more and relays it back to Google

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Privacy Alert, it seems
Samsung SmartTV’s are not
the only spies lurking in our
homes and offices, Google’s
voice search features seems
to be another culprit.

Google has a voice search
feature “OK Google” in Google
Search page; Yes, just by
enabling “OK Google” and
“voicing your search” i.e
speaking it aloud, you can
easily get it on Google.

This is a hands free feature
and can be used for lot more
things than only searching
which includes getting
reminders and also
directions. User would need
microphone attached to their
gadgets. The feature is easily
activated on all the smart
phones, desktop, laptops.

User just needs to install the
Google Voice Search Hotword
(Beta) extension. To activate
this extension user needs to
add the “Google Voice
Search” from the Chrome
Web store; this is a free
service. Once this gets added
to the Google chrome user
needs to enable the “OK
Google” by going in the
settings. Now the microphone
starts capturing the sound of
the required search and
converts this to text and
sends it to Google; lo and
behold you get the answer to
your query. So far so good!
but wait there seems to be
an privacy issue.

The main hitch here is that
microphone would capture a
few seconds prior to actual
query and send the same to
Google. So if this sound
contains any personal or
sensitive information it will
not be able to distinguish
and it will send every sound
that it captured right from
the time the microphone has
been activated till the
deactivation of microphone.
If user wants a complete hands fr
then the microphone needs to be
activated always. However, it woul mean that all the sound that is
being generated by the user
including private and intimate
convos are being captured and se
to Google.

And if user deactivates the
microphone then user would still
needs to click a button for activati
the microphone prior to voicing th
search. Hence its still a question
to how feasible would this be
because its not yet clear as to ho
much data will be recorded prior to actual query, in case the microphone is always on “ON” mode.

The “OK Google” feature reminds
of Samsung Smart TV with the
feature of Voice instructions where the voice command gets converted text by some device installed with
the smart TV and this is sent to
third party to decode the text and obey the required command. Same
issue occurred here, sounds othe than the instructions would be
captured and sent to third party
which is actually irrelevant and al
may contain any sensitive or
personal information. Even disabling the Voice recognition feature would
not help as the device was smart
enough to recognize the voice
command. Besides, detaching the
Smart TV from wireless network
would mean it lost its original
purpose.

Having said that, Google’s new be
feature of “OK Google” with is very
useful for a user who has lost his/
her hands (amputee) due to some
unfortunate reason. The drawback
might just fade away because of t
advantages this feature has.

However if you are a privacy
conscious person, it always takes
that extra bit to be very careful.

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