back to article Never mind Samsung, GOOGLE will EAVESDROP as you browse on Chrome

Those uneasy about Samsung's "smart" television terms and conditions are going to have a nervous wobble about a project along the same lines underway at Google’s Chocolate Factory. The realisation that anything spoken near your Smart TV might be recorded and transmitted to a third party is bad enough, but how about the …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm sure it's fine and that at most they use it for targeted advertising.

    1. Breen Whitman

      Extend your life. Use Firefox or IE.

      Oh, and also as locator beacon for US drone strikes, or "boots on the ground" CIA assassinations.

      For example, Googling "Amanda Rosenberg affair" will prioritize you to "urgent target".

      In fact just writing this will hdj d

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      <sarcasm>Yes, we all can take US corporations at their word as to surveillance and privacy concerns. Nothing in recent memory to be concerned about. Nothing at all. </sarcasm>

      Parts of the US gov are lying to their own citizens (and other parts of the US gov) so you automatically believe they are telling you the truth?

      American companies have no business being in Europe. Until they see negative responses to their idiotic behaviour expect no changes from them any time soon.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Because European (or any other) governments and companies don't do this? Wait.. is that a unicorn?!?!

        Puff puff pass brotha

    3. N13L5

      Re: I'm sure it's fine

      yeah, definitely... since the dissolution of Imperial intelligence services and only a single active spy left, we're totally safe.

      Either way, I have one of those Samsung Smart TVs and I simply didn't agree to their terms. Since I didn't agree, all "smart" functions are disabled, but the Set works perfectly fine as a computer monitor.

      The LG I had first, I actually had to send back to Amazon, because it didn't take "NO" for an answer and kept nagging me every hour!

      As for Android,, just root your phone and remove Chrome. Problem solved until Google comes up with the next step in trying to control MY device for their benefit.

  2. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

    “Are you comfortable with a ‘few’ seconds?”

    Negative.

    1. tom dial Silver badge

      If you aren't happy with it then turn it off or use a different browser. There is no apparent need to be upset about it. Those with real concerns need to worry about much more than the browser listening or the search engine capturing a bit of drivel in the hope it can help them collect a few mils from an advertiser.

      1. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

        Who's upset? I use Firefox with an appropriate sprinkling of blockers. I use duckduckgo mostly but am using yahoo for a few months to help pay the bills. I only use anything google as a last resort if searches elsewhere have failed and then it will be in a private window. I'm not upset about any of those decisions.

  3. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Devil

    “Are you comfortable with a ‘few’ seconds?”

    Are you comfortable with a "few" drops of concentrated sulphuric acid?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hotword

    But for Google that is the point of the hotword. The hotword is processed locally and then only starts transmitting once that is received. This is how it happens on the phones.

    They could be transmitting everything you say at all times, but then again they could be doing that already on a PC with a microphone. However the gain compared to the risk would be in as big negative.

    1. Irongut

      Re: Hotword

      Except that is not what it does. Google themselves admit it sends them a 'few' seconds before the hot word as well. How long is that?

      What if you happen to say "Ok Google" as part of a conversation without intending to trigger Chrome?

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hotword

        "Google themselves admit it sends them a 'few' seconds before the hot word as well"

        Eh? Where do they say that?

      3. R 11

        Re: Hotword

        Seriously? How often do you find yourself saying ' OK Google' in conversation. I have a Moto X and it's never once activated due to an accidental muttering of "OK Google".

        Looking at the Moto X, no audio before the "OK Google" is transmitted since that is recognized in hardware. I haven't tried the browser plugin to see if it's significantly different. To be honest, I think Google are just covering the arse in case they get some extra audio.

        If you're concerned about what you have transmitted you can listen to the actual data on the Google Voice & Audio Activity Page.

        https://history.google.com/history/audio

        Out of curiosity, do Samsung let you check and delete your search history from their storage and that of their third party service provider? How about Amazon and their Echo?

        1. GregC

          Re: Hotword

          Seriously? How often do you find yourself saying ' OK Google' in conversation. I have a Moto X and it's never once activated due to an accidental muttering of "OK Google".

          Neither has my Nexus 5. It has, however, activated several times in response to normal conversation not containing the phrase "OK Google".

          I know this, because my audio search history contains several instances of "I didn't f***ing say 'OK Google!'".....

        2. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: Hotword

          Delete? Do you honestly think it's really deleted? What are the chances it's a flag not to appear listed on the voice search page?

          "after you delete information from our services, we may not immediately delete residual copies from our active servers and may not remove information from our backup systems."

          https://www.google.com/intl/en/policies/privacy/

          1. R 11

            Re: Hotword

            A bit of selective quoting there. You missed the preceding sentence - "We aim to maintain our services in a manner that protects information from accidental or malicious destruction. "

            Google backup to tape. When I click delete I do not expect a tape monkey to go scurrying around to find the tape and rearchive it absent my request to start a 45 minute timer.

            I can completely understand that hitting delete is not instantaneous. Still, I think that if you click delete the data will be deleted, since to do otherwise would leave the company open to the most massive of class action litigation in the US. It simply wouldn't be worth the risk. And to think they could do it and keep it secret is ridiculous. Google have and will continue to fire people. If any one of them could get confirmation of a deliberate policy of retaining such data for future use by Google, they could inflict massive and likely permanent damage to the company.

            1. Someone Else Silver badge
              Go

              @ R 11--Re: Hotword

              A bit of selective quoting there. You missed the preceding sentence - "We aim to maintain our services in a manner that protects information from accidental or malicious destruction. "

              I'm sure they do. I aim to hit the toilet every time I need to take a piss (American version of the phrase), too.... My wife has some ideas as to how successful I am during any given interval of time, and I don't know why I (or you, R 11) should expect Google's "aim" to be any better.

              1. R 11

                Re: @ R 11--Hotword

                Maybe I believe Google because we know that in February 2011 after a gmail outage, some users had their data restored from tape backups.

                As for your aiming problems, I guess that only your wife can accurately comment.

        3. big_D Silver badge

          Re: Hotword

          I've seen/heard a lot of podcasts where Android / Chrome have suddenly woken up and started paying attention in the middle of sentences and they don't always say "OK Google" directly.

          Sometimes it is "OK, so Google has..." or "Google is" or even just having Google in a sentence is sometimes enough. Pretty funny when you are watching something like "This Week in Google" and half a dozen devices suddenly light up in the middle of a conversation! :-D

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hotword

        "What if you happen to say "Ok Google" as part of a conversation without intending to trigger Chrome?"

        That would almost definitely not trigger it and if it did, you'd know about it.

      5. P. Lee Silver badge

        Re: Hotword

        Its easy to fix. Your audio system should tell you what is capturing audio inputs and which inputs are assigned to an app. Most people also have an unused mic/line-in port.

        Maybe its time to invest in the production of a clear box which has a button/lever which can physically break a USB link.

        I would have thought the "ok Google" part would be processed locally, otherwise you'll be severely sapping your download allowance. If I were doing this, I'd also be taking a few seconds before the keyword (i.e. saving audio in a ringbuffer) so that I can verify that "ok google" was actually spoken and picked up properly by the more primitive local processing.

      6. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Hotword

        "What if you happen to say "Ok Google" as part of a conversation without intending to trigger Chrome?"

        Maybe we all need to get into a regular habit of pre-pending "Fuck you!" onto all the different "attention getters" for these speech systems.

        Fuck you ok Google.

        Fuck you Siri

        Fuck you Hello Cortana

        Fuck You Hello Samsung

  5. fishman

    Windows 10

    With Cortana.

    Heck, any laptop with a camera and mike is a security threat.

    1. joed

      Re: Windows 10

      Yep. Exactly the reason I'll never sign in to my real system with internet account. Smartphone is lost cause by now by MS need not control all that happens on my Desktop. Not even for the great price of free (if I was to trust their PR).

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We don't know how many "a few seconds" are and we'll never know who they share recordings with...

    Example:

    "I've built the device you asked for. It should be working OK. GOOGLE produced some helpful advice. This is gonna be a blast!"

    As in this day and age we're all presumed guilty until proven innocent, and snooping and sharing happens behind our backs, I wouldn't be too surprised if this snippet, totally out of context, was misinterpreted and prompted certain "visitors" to pop by shortly after.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: We don't know how many "a few seconds" are and we'll never ...

      That wouldn't trigger it unless you purposely try to make it trigger. Any time it does you know about it.

      1. R 11

        Re: We don't know how many "a few seconds" are and we'll never ...

        Yeah, I tried multiple times with Chrome open and my phone in front of me. Neither would activate until I paused slightly before OK and after Google and removed the pause for the full stop in between.

        Note that it only activates if Chrome has the window focus. Then the whole window changes and your computer beeps. So if, somehow, you did manage to make it accidentally trigger you'd know about it like the AC above said.

  7. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Firefox

    makes more and more sense on desktop and on Android, apart from the version number.

    1. joed

      Re: Firefox

      Though even Mozilla compromised Sync in the name of ease of use. One can no longer sync Firefox outside their servers and keys managed by them. Sad state of "progress".

  8. choleric

    Air gap

    Proper privacy requires an air gap*, it's just a shame that for some developers it's between their ears.

    * Or a _hardware_ switch that cuts off the potentially offending microphone or video camera.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Air gap

      "Or a _hardware_ switch that cuts off the potentially offending microphone or video camera."

      A piece of electrical tape should act as a barrier that you can see is in place. A new variant on a "go faster" stripe.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Air gap

        "Or a _hardware_ switch that cuts off the potentially offending microphone or video camera."

        A piece of electrical tape should act as a barrier that you can see is in place. A new variant on a "go faster" stripe.

        -------------

        Alternatives:

        1. Use blue tac, or similar - more likely to muffle the audio than simple tape.

        2. You could cut the wires off an old/broken hands free headset and plug the jack into the headphone/mic socket for a dependable* solution.

        * "dependable" assumes the listening software is using whatever is the default mic, rather than always using the inbuilt mic. ;)

        This is all well and good now, but soon devices will have invisible speakers/mics** that listen through the case - as solids conduct sound rather well, don't they? Try putting tape over that in a few years time. ;)

        ** In listening terms, speaker = mic for high values of $TARGET

  9. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    The trouble is

    that things which should be processed locally aren't, or can't yet be, and are sent off into the ether without so much as a by-your-leave (other than the obligatory and confusing small print).

    I don't like any 'helpful' service that does something without my explicit and timely consent. I don't like location services and keep it turned off (odd how the 'remember this answer' box is greyed out if you choose *not* to keep it turned on at all times!), I don't like contactless cash cards, and I don't like the thought of random chunks of conversation being transmitted either.

    1. joed

      Re: The trouble is

      Same like combining url bar with search field or worse, like OSX and Windows trying to search both local files and Internet. What a convenience (until you happen to accidentally type a password or other sensitive stuff into the stupid field).

    2. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Re: The trouble is

      Local voice recognition has been available for ages. Vista even came with a passable voice control system.

      Google have no reason to want to provide a capable offline based system, their primary business being collecting information to use for targeted advertising.

      The only thing that would prompt a change is some legislation or a drive for more effective Accessibility/Universal access that might result in negative public opinion if not implemented.

      I'm not expecting either any time in the next 60 years.

  10. Mark 85 Silver badge
    Coat

    I shudder to think

    What will come on the screen if, after uttering "Ok Google", I spill my coffee and the invectives flow.. and they usually start with "Oh fsck" or "Oh s**t".... It wouldn't be prudent to have anyone able to see the screen at that point.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mobile drvices?

    I assume this is only for mobile devices or top management that have to have all the latest bells and whistles. After all, who in their right mind uses speakers and microphones in a work situation - those in multimedia production excepted?

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Mobile drvices?

      Not in production but our staff meetings use mikes and headsets and web cams. My department has people in 7 cities and it's impractical to bring them to one site.

  12. Yugguy

    Disabled Chrome

    Like yer comment above I detest pretty much all 'helpful' services.

    I disabled Chrome and Google Now and ALL voice control on my Sony Xperia Z3 on general principle, cos Google can get fecked.

    That and the RETARDS at Sony put the swipe up gesture location for Google Now right next to the Home softkey, so any tiny deviation from straight press kept opening Google Now.

    My default position on these things is NO. I can do it myself thank you. I don't want my life second-guessed by an algorithm.

    What is VERY ANNOYING is that it wasn't possible to disable Google Now without downloading a usb editor and linking the phone to the laptop so I could run an apk disabler, not something the average punter could or would do.

  13. RISC OS

    You did not seriously think that a User could contend with the ear of Sauron?

    There are none who can. Against the power of Google, there can be no victory. We must join with it. We must join with Google

  14. Matthew LaShure

    The "Okay Google" phrase only works with the browser plug in while you are on a "New Tab" page. Otherwise, voice recognition is turned off during your normal activities.

  15. Christian Berger Silver badge

    Logical consequence of overly complex web standards

    If web standards were simple, we'd have some actual competition in the web browser field. There would be many free engines and it would be easy to write a browser around them. There wouldn't be the need for a corporation to manage and finance the development. Without such a corporation you'd have true free software which would be developed regardless of the interests of such a corporation. That way we'd have browsers that would value the interests of their users.

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