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Topic Android Security

How To Stop Your Phone From Listening To You

Have you ever had a chat with a friend about a new product or service, then randomly received ads on your phone about it immediately afterwards?  

 

Many mobile users from all over the world have reported something similar. For this reason, people are wondering if their phones are listening to them.

 

With Clario, you can reliably prevent cross-site tracking using instant ad-blocking and VPN functionality to help you get rid of intrusive ads and protect your privacy.

  1. Install Clario’s free trial (no credit card required)
  2. Create an account
  3. Take advantage of other cybersecurity features to protect yourself online.

Is Google listening to me on my phone?

According to Google, it uses your voice activity to improve your overall experience across its products.  

 

For example, Google uses your voice files to learn the sound of your voice, understand how you say words, and improve its existing audio recognition technologies.

 

Because most of Google's products are free, it's important to understand that gathering as much data as possible on us is how it remains profitable. Often, this data is used to serve us more relevant ads.  

 

In addition, voice and artificial intelligence technology help Google craft a better image of us as a consumer. This makes our profiles more valuable to brands and third-party advertisers.

 

Google demands its developers adhere to strict privacy standards. However, it's also not immune from hackers attempting to use it for other nefarious purposes.

 

In 2019, a thousand voice recordings gathered on Google Assistant were leaked to VRT news. These recordings were said to contain enough personally identifiable information to identify device owners, even without being linked to their Google accounts.

 

So, while Google claims that the audio it gathers is not inherently linked to accounts, it can still be traceable and put you and your data at risk. Thankfully, if this makes you feel a little paranoid, all is not lost. There are plenty of ways to stop your phone from listening to you.

How to stop my Android phone from listening to me

There are three main ways that you can stop your Android phone from listening to you: turn off "Ok Google", revoke microphone access to your Google App, and completely disable the Google Assistant.  

How to Turn Off "Ok Google" on Android

How to turn off Hey Google

With thousands of Android phones in the market, the instructions to turn off "Ok Google" varies slightly across models. However, here are the steps you can follow to turn it off on stock Android models such as Google Pixel, Nokia, Moto, and so on.

  1. Go to the Settings app.
  2. Tap or Search for Google.
  3. Under Services, select Account services.
  4. Select Search, Assistant & Voice.
  5. Choose Voice.
  6. Tap Voice Match.
  7. Disable the Hey Google slider to disable "Ok Google" detection.

Once you disable this feature, your Android phone will no longer respond to you when you say "Ok Google".

How to Erase Saved Voices on Google Assistant

How to Erase Saved Voices on Google Assistant

Once you disable “Ok Google”, you may also want to remove any remaining saved voices on the app as well. To accomplish this, you can either individually remove the devices where your voice is saved or remove all eligible devices in one go.

  1. Go to the Settings app.
  2. Tap or Search for Google.
  3. Under Services, select Account services.
  4. Select Search, Assistant & Voice.
  5. Choose Voice.
  6. Tap Voice Match.
  7. Tap the X button next to names of the devices to remove them.
  8. Alternatively, select Remove from eligible devices to erase any existing copies of your voice on all your registered devices.

How to revoke microphone access for Google App on Android

How to revoke microphone access on Google

When it comes to keeping Google from listening to you, one of the best ways to protect yourself is to remove permissions to access your microphone. Here's how to do it.

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Select Apps & notifications.
  3. Choose See all X apps to get a full list.
  4. Tap Google.
  5. Select Permissions.
  6. Tap Microphone.
  7. Choose to Deny the permission.

After disabling the microphone access for the Google app, you will be required to accept a prompt warning you that your device may not work as intended.

How to disable the Google Assistant App on Android

How to disable the Google Assistant on Android

If you don't trust Google at all, you can also disable the Google Assistant App on Android altogether.

  1. Go to the Settings app.
  2. Tap or Search for Google.
  3. Under the Services section, select Account services.
  4. Select Search, Assistant & Voice.
  5. Tap Google Assistant.
  6. Scroll down and choose General.
  7. Next to Google Assistant, toggle off the button to disable it.

How to stop my iPhone from listening to me

Apple is known to be relatively privacy focused compared with other tech giants. Due to its business model, Apple relies less on personally identifiable information. Using in-device processing, Apple is known to significantly minimize the collection of customer data to function.

 

However, it's always best to stay on the safe side, especially when it comes to technology that can be used to identify something as personal as your voice.

How to stop Google from listening to me on iPhone

Unlike Android phones, iPhones aren't as troubled by Google because it's a separate app that needs to be downloaded. In addition, Google Assistant for iPhone can't listen to "Hey Google" without an app open.  Lastly, you can always uninstall the app if you feel like it.

How to turn off "Ok Google" on iPhone

If you have already installed the Google app for iPhone, but want to keep using the app without the microphone features, you can turn off the "Ok Google" detection. Here's how to do it.

  1. Open the Google app.
  2. Tap your profile picture.
  3. Select Settings.
  4. Choose Voice and Assistant.
  5. Toggle off the button next to "Ok Google".

Once you disable "Ok Google", the app will no longer be able to do any searches through your voice.

How to stop Siri from listening to you

How to disable Hey Siri on iPhone

While not every iPhone user will have Google installed, they will have Siri, Apple's built-in Voice Assistant. If you want to stay on the safe side, you can easily disable the listening function for “Hey Siri”.

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Tap Siri & Search.
  3. Toggle the switch next to "Hey Siri" off.

After disabling microphone access, you can no longer get help from Siri hands-free. However, you can still physically activate Siri using the buttons instead.

How to turn off microphone on iPhone Apps

How to disable microphone on iPhone apps

For many of us, we download dozens of apps and never really look at the permissions they request. In fact, the majority of these apps that request access to our microphones don't actually need it to function.

 

If you're determined to get rid of all the possible ways that random apps on your iPhone listen to you, you can revoke access to your microphone for other apps as well. Here's how.

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Go to Privacy.
  3. Tap Microphone.
  4. Next to all the apps that you don't need to have access to your microphone, toggle off the button.

Bear in mind that there will be some apps that won't be able to work without accessing your microphone. For example, messaging apps like WhatsApp or Telegram won't be able to receive calls or send voice messages without it. Because of this, it’s good to be discerning about the permissions you give.

How to prevent eavesdropping on mobile devices

When it comes to preventing eavesdropping on mobile devices, the cards are still up in the air. While it's true that the technology to process natural language already exists, it’s hard to tell how much our phones are already listening to us.

 

Meanwhile, it’s worth turning off personalized ads in your Google account. This will prevent eavesdropping across all devices where you logged in Google services. As an extra layer of privacy protection, you can use a secure VPN service such as Clario to encrypt your data while browsing the web too.  

 

As of now, most companies have claimed that they don't listen to our phones without our consent. In numerous instances where our phones could be listening to us, this might just be a case of granular data gathering from interconnected online profiles.

 

However, due to a lack of government regulation or oversight, this may also change with time. For this reason, it's always best to stay on the safe side and avoid letting unnecessary apps on your phone access your voice.

 

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