Google Home is a smart device that lets users play music, receive news and weather updates as well as control other smart devices using voice commands. There have been some privacy concerns with Google involving their smart devices that are worth looking into.
Hackers Using Alexa Skills & Google Actions to Record Users
In October 2019, The Verge shared a post about how SRLabs discovered a security vulnerability with Google and Amazon smart speakers. Hackers can create malicious Alexa skills or Google actions that can be downloaded and unsuspectedly record your voice.
Status Updates & User Data
By now, most people are familiar with prompts during the setup process that ask if they want to share their data with a company.
Amazon and Google are no exceptions.Our convenient voice commands can come at a price, and device status updates may potentially share information with a company that you don’t want shared. These are updates that your smart device sends to the company. Some of the benefits that businesses like Amazon and Google get from these status updates are information to help them create products that cater to consumer interests. According to CNET, it doesn’t appear that Google and Amazon are going to halt these updates. In this post, we’re going to share with you some tips on how you can better guard your privacy while using a Google Home device.
Google Home and Protecting Your Privacy
Google Home is equipped with advanced technology to prevent data breaches, but there are still risks when using any internet connected (IoT) device. Here are some protective steps to make your device more secure:
- Review and delete voice recordings – Google Home stores your search and activity history to make your experience with them more relevant, smarter and faster. This is a benefit to users, but if you have concerns about privacy or security breaches, you can review and delete these recordings from the My Activity page.
- Change settings to automatically manage data stored by Google – You may not want to share things like your location or banking information with Google. Your Home device lets you change your settings to manage what data Google links with your account. Restricting what you share with your Home saves time, and you won’t need to worry about deleting history.
- Mute the Google Home microphone – When not in use, mute the Home’s microphone using the touch panel on top of the device. All recording capabilities stop until reactivated.
- Disable personal results – Google Home will read out personal information such as shopping lists or your daily schedule. To disable this feature, tap the “Device” icon in your Google Home menu, tap “Settings,” and then “More.” Scroll down to “personal results” and turn it off.
- Don’t link Google accounts with sensitive information to your Google Home – Google accounts containing sensitive information like bank details or identity information shouldn’t be linked to your device. Although Google Home differentiates your voice from others’, you don’t want to leave things to chance.
- Turn off your Google Home when you’re away – Your Google Home doesn’t have a power button. To turn off your device, you must unplug it from its power source.
- Try Paranoid: a sound-blocking device – Owned by Pleasant Solutions, Paranoid is a device that’s designed to block sounds from your smart speaker. You currently can choose from three options: the Home Button, Home Wave, and Home Max – each retailing for $49. The Home Button physically sits on your smart speaker’s mute button, while the Home Wave produces noise to interfere with what your smart speaker hears. The Home Max option will allow you to send your smart speaker to the company’s service center and have your microphone cut and a Paranoid device added.
How can I find out what data Google has about me?
Google allows you to see a summary of the data the company has about you. To see your data, simply follow these steps:
- Visit your Google account
- Click “Data & personalization” on the left navigation panel
- Scroll down to the panel titled “Things you can create and do”
- Click “Go to Google Dashboard”
- See the summary of your data
How can I delete the data Google Assistant has about me?
Your Google Assistant stores all your past activity so that it can respond to you in a more personalized way. But Google also allows you to delete your past activity.
There are a couple of different ways you can do this. First, you can simply ask your Google Assistant to delete the activity for you, and you can specify how far back you want your data deleted.
The other way to delete your data is by logging into your Google account and finding your Google Assistant activity page. From there, you’ll see a button that says “Delete activity by”, and you can choose to delete all past data.
How can I turn off Hey Google?
Your Google Home device comes with a mute button on the back, which you can use to disable the device’s built-in microphone. When you engage the mute button, the device will no longer listen. To enable the microphone so that your device is back on alert, you must unmute it. You can also temporarily mute your device by creating a schedule in the device app.
Google Home and Cybersecurity
- Turn off internet connection to your Google Home when not in use – Disabling the internet connection to your Home reduces the chance your device will be spotted by IoT search engines like Shodan, ZoomEye, Censys and others. For example, a hacker could use Shodan to find unsecured IoT devices.
- Only use a secured internet connection – Cyber attacks targeting IoT devices usually happen over unsecured connections. Public WiFi and unencrypted internet connections qualify as unsecured connections, so avoid these when using your Google Home. In addition, a good virtual private network (VPN) service will help ensure your connection is secure.
- Use strong passwords for your WiFi connection – Be sure to change default passwords on your home internet connections and other internet connections you use. A strong password helps reduce the chance of your device being hacked.
Can Smart Speakers be Hacked?
A 2019 study by researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo tackled the question of whether smart speakers can be hacked. Because the devices don’t require any sort of authentication, the researchers were able to take over a device’s speakers using a laser from a far distance. In response to the study, Amazon (the company that introduced Alexa) encouraged customers to enable a PIN on their device and use the mute button when not using it.
Google Home vs. Amazon Echo: Differences in Privacy & Security
Google Home measures up well in protecting users’ privacy and security. Here’s how it compares to its biggest competitor, the Amazon Echo.
- Google Home allows up to six users per device. This means each user gets personalized responses rather than sharing access. Google Home uses its voice recognition to differentiate between users. With Amazon Alexa, you can currently add up to two adults per device for use.
- If you want more compatibility, go with an Alexa-enabled device. Alexa currently works with over 60,000 smart home devices. Google Assistant currently works with more than 30,000 products.
- Amazon Echo lets you change your wake words, but Google Home doesn’t give you control over your wake words.
Wrap Up: Google Home & Your Security
Google takes your privacy and security seriously, but that’s not enough reason to leave things to chance. Use the privacy tips above to improve your Google Home’s security and reduce the possibility of your information being compromised.