Relying on Google Home ( $79 at Walmart ) to manage your digital life requires something of a trade off in regard to your privacy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to give up all your secrets just to get your smart speaker to work for you. It’s quite possible, through a combination of security settings and responsible privacy practices, to minimize the amount and kind of data you share with Google and still take advantage of the hands-free convenience Google Home affords. The key is knowing how much information your Google Home can live without and still work the way you want it to.
As tech companies such as Google face tougher public scrutiny following a scourge of privacy breaches in recent years, including evidence revealed last month that Google has covertly supplied third-party advertisers with its users’ personal data, many people are shying away from services that ask for too much of their information. In response, many tech companies — Google included — are becoming more transparent with their data practices by establishing portals where you can access, delete and limit the data gathered about you.
If you love your Google Home but want to limit the voice recordings, location information and other personal data that it keeps, these are the settings that you’ll need to adjust to fine-tune your privacy controls.
Check which Actions you’ve enabled
Unlike on, which require you to before you can use them, most , needing only a voice command to activate. That puts most of the responsibility for protecting your privacy on Google. That said, some Actions do require you to set them up, especially when you connect smart home devices such as lights and door locks to Google Home. To see a list of all the Actions you’ve manually enabled:
1. Open the Google Assistant app on your mobile device. (If you don’t have the Assistant app, head to the iOS App Store or Google Play and download it.)
2. Tap the explore icon (the little compass needle in a circle) in the bottom left corner.
3. Scroll all the way to the bottom and tap Your Actions.
4. Tap Linked.
From here you can see all the actions you’ve specifically authorized, most likely music services (such as Pandora or Spotify) or smart home devices (like Nest or Wemo). If you see any you don’t recognize or no longer need (for example, if you switched music services) here’s how to delete them:
1. Tap the more information icon (three horizontal lines) to the right of the linked service you want to delete.
2. Scroll down to Account status.
3. Tap Unlink.
4. When the app prompts you for confirmation, tap Unlink.
Look up everything Google Assistant has on you
First, you’ll want to navigate to the Settings page that details all the information Google has been keeping on you.
1. Open your Google Home app.
2. Tap your personal icon (it could be your photo or a silhouette) in the upper right corner.
3. Select You from the menu bar at the top.
4. Tap Your data in the Assistant.
Here you can scroll as far back as your record goes through every piece of information Google Assistant has been keeping about you. You can delete items one at a time by tapping the trash can icon beside each item, or you can follow the next set of steps to delete all of it.
Delete some or all of your private data
Google Assistant saves audio recordings of every voice command Google Home has ever heard (including false triggers), which helps the software to understand your voice and execute future commands better, but isn’t critical to the device’s operation. Here’s how to delete that, and all other data:
1. Go to the Your data in the Assistant page. Under Your Assistant activity tap My Activity.
2. To the right of the search bar at the top of the page, tap the icon of three stacked dots.
3. Tap Delete activity by.
4. If you want to start over with a clean slate, tap All time. Otherwise, you can choose to delete all data collected in the Last hour, Last day or create a Custom range, say, from the day you started using Google Home until last month.
5. The app will ask you to confirm that you would like to delete your Google Assistant Activity for the specified period. Tap Delete to confirm.
6. You’ll see this message: “Deletion complete.” In the lower-right corner, tap Got it to return to the main Google Assistant Activity page.
Choose how often your data will be deleted
If you don’t mind letting Google Assistant remember your recent interactions with it, you can set the data to be deleted automatically after either 3 or 18 months. From the main Google Assistant Activity page:
1. On the Your data in the Assistant page, under Your Assistant activity tap My Activity and then tap the icon of three stacked dots to the right of the search bar at the top.
2. Tap Keep activity and then choose whether you want to keep activity forever (Keep until I delete manually), Keep for 18 months or Keep for 3 months.
3. When the app asks you to confirm the change, scroll to the bottom of the page and tap Confirm.
4. Tap Got it to return to the main Google Assistant Activity page.
The most extreme privacy option: Pause all activity
Instead of regular purges, you can set Google Assistant to no longer keep logs of your data at all, but that may cause some hiccups with how well Google Assistant functions. If your privacy is of the utmost importance to you and you’re willing to deal with a few glitches from time to time, from the main Google Assistant Activity page:
1. Scroll down to Web & App Activity is on and tap Change setting.
3. Turn off the toggle beside Web & App Activity.
4. A screen will pop up, warning you that “pausing Web & App Activity may limit or disable more personalized experiences across Google services.” At the bottom of that screen, press Pause to stop Google from logging your activity. Note that changing this setting does not delete any of your personal data from Google, it only stops Google Assistant from recording more data going forward.
After you press Pause, you’ll be returned to the main Google Assistant Activity page.
That’s it — now you don’t have to declare open season on your private life or your personal data to enjoy your Google Home smart speaker or hub. This may be especially important if you’re concerned about Google restarting the human-powered quality assurance program it suspended in August in which reviewers listened to recordings collected from many of the over 3.2 million Google Home devices in the wild.
Not to mention, smart speakers are just the beginning: nowadays, and .