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Does Google Nest WiFi Listen To You?

Last Updated Apr 8, 2022
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It has been the plot of dystopian novels, movies, and shows for over a hundred years. The machine participates in everything you say, do, and perhaps even think. At this point in time, nearly every household has smart devices that can be controlled by voice. Does that mean we are being listened to or recorded all of the time in the most private of settings?

Yes, Google Nest WiFi always listens to you. The wireless pucks are designed as speakers and microphones for Google’s famous Google Home app and system, and those contain a microphone that is always on.

This shouldn’t be surprising, as it is designed to listen to the commands of the people inside the space it is located and respond accordingly. The amount that is recorded and what Google does with the recordings is surprising, and you can take action to change that if you feel uncomfortable. Read on to learn what they record, what they do with the recordings, and how to adjust those settings.

Google Records Everything At All Times

It comes as a surprise to many that Google records everything that is said whenever you are within receiving distance of the microphone. The microphone is placed throughout the home or business because that is how Google Nest WiFi ensures the best coverage throughout the space.

Google freely admits it does record everything that the microphone picks up. Many think the device only starts recording when the “wake word” is stated, but that is not true. It is recorded at all times. What happens with the recording, however, is determined by two factors.

The microphones have a massive range. In some tests, the microphone from a single device can pick up a normal speaking voice amidst medium background noise up to 80 feet. Consider that you likely have points scattered throughout the home, and the microphone is listening to everything.

“OK, Google”

The “wake word” for a personal assistant device, whether it is a Google Home, Amazon Echo, or Siri, notifies the device that you are speaking to it and will immediately afterward issue a command. Just as you would call a human by their name to get their attention, calling the device by the wake word gets its attention.

There are many things you can do with the Google Assitant’s help.

To understand how your Google Nest WiFi listens to you and records your voice, you must first understand how it processes your commands. The commands you give to the Google Nest WiFi or Google Home are not processed locally on the device. It turns your words into text via its speech-to-text engine and then pings Google’s servers with the command.

Google’s servers then process the command and send the response back to the device. Whether you’re telling it to turn on your living room light or ask where the world’s largest ball of yarn might be located, it gets sent somewhere worldwide, processed, and the answer or action returned in the blink of an eye.

What Did You Say? Let Me Check.

For Google to accomplish this incredible feat, it constantly records your voice in very short bursts called “snippets.” It saves that snippet and works on converting it to text before you even mention the wake word. If you mention the wake word, in the case “OK Google,” it goes back in time, looks at your converted snippet, then sends it off to the servers.

Google likely keeps your raw voice and the translated snippet on file forever if the wake word is stated. There are numerous accounts of utilizing the recordings from devices for different uses, such as assisting law enforcement and employing thousands of personnel to audit and improve the effectiveness of the speech-to-text function.

If you do not state the wake word, Google deletes the snippet. It’s that simple. If there is a bit of skepticism regarding whether or not Google actually deletes the snippet, that is understandable, and you’re not alone. There have been numerous audits from the device itself to Google’s servers, and thus far, it appears that Google is true to its word.

Please Don’t Record Me

There is a way to stop the Google Nest WiFi from recording your voice at all times. Simply turn off the microphone. It will still function as a mesh router, but it will not record your voice nor act as a smart personal assistant. The only downside is that it displays an orange ring at the bottom of the puck. This can be annoying, particularly at night.

Adjusting Your Settings

If you still would like to utilize Google Home and Google Nest WiFi but don’t want Google to record your snippets, you can adjust your privacy settings. You also can listen to and delete your snippets on your Google account. It is beyond this article to explain how to do so, but you should know that you can.

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