In Orwell’s 1984, the world is oppressed by those who are watching and listening to each person’s every move. People are controlled by their fear and their complete lack of privacy. It seems like science fiction – a distant and dysfunctional dystopia designed to keep the masses in check. But just how far removed are we from this reality?
“OK, Google – are you listening to me?”
They’re Listening To You
Google Now launched in 2012 as an ‘intelligent personal assistant.’ Five years on, and five years’ worth of users voice recordings later, its intelligence appears to be growing. In comparison to the early days, users note its improved ability to recognize commands and voices. It’s becoming much less robot and much more human.
Users of Google Now should be well acquainted with the voice recognition feature “OK Google.” Like Apple’s Siri, this feature allows users to set reminders, ask questions, call friends, and just about anything else a mobile phone is capable of doing. Users may NOT be aware that every time a voice is recorded by Google, Now it is stored and can be accessed and analyzed. We can assume these recordings are used to improve their voice recognition services, but can we be certain that our privacy is being respected? Should users have been made aware that their voices and searches were being stored and analyzed indefinitely? Who is listening and what if they end up knowing too much about us?
At the address above you can access your voice recording history. You might be surprised at what you find. Furthermore, these are just the recordings made by Google Now. Perhaps this is just the tip of the iceberg? There’s nothing to stop Google recording you all day every day, with the microphone, the front facing camera, the main camera, your keyboard input – they can record and analyze everything you do from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed if they want to. Your mobile phone, especially if it’s an Android device, is a personal surveillance machine. By taking this little box of cameras and microphones with you everywhere you go, you’re essentially allowing Google to monitor everything you do.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t quite get that. Could you repeat that?”
It’s been 5 years since its launch, who knows how much more advanced it will be 5 years from now? Maybe it will be able to tell what you’re thinking or finish your sentences for you. Perhaps if we get to that stage, like in 1984, people will be thinking twice about whether or not the all-hearing ear of Google is such a good thing. But by then, it might be too late to go back!