Update July 27 9:05AM ET: This article was originally published on July 20, 2018 and has been updated to include video.
With an increasing number of households buying into virtual assistants like Google Home and Amazon Alexa, it’s important to keep in mind that these devices are designed to listen. This includes recording and learning the tone of your voice and improving voice recognition and features for the virtual assistant. It’s supposed to be a feature and not a bug, but it’s landed Amazon’s Echo speakers in hot water after they spontaneously erupted in laughter.
Amazon claimed the affected Echo speakers were triggered by false positive commands. If you’re an Alexa user, it’s possible to delete all of your recorded queries. On the flip side, Google Home hasn’t yet had a similar crisis — at least not to public knowledge — but before it does, it’s good to know how to play back, delete, and organize the queries you’ve made.
To get started, log in to your Google account via a web browser. Click your profile picture in the top right, click on “Google Account,” and afterward you’ll be taken to an overview page. Look for the “Personal info & privacy” column centered in the overview page, then click on “Manage your Google activity.” Once you’re there, scroll down until you reach the “Review activity” section — this is what you’re looking for — and click on the “Go to my activity” link.
If you’re using your phone, the process is similar, but the appearance of the options change a little. To get there, log in to your Google account in the browser and tap the following: your profile picture > Manage Accounts > Google Activity Controls > Manage Activity. You’ll be greeted by a full list of all queries that can be sorted and deleted.
The activity page that loads is a revealing and complete overview of all queries you’ve made to Google search, Assistant on your phone, and Home. You can filter your activity from each of Google’s products and apps, including filters by date that include yesterday’s queries, last week’s, the last 30 days, all time, or a selected period of time. This is particularly useful if you’re only looking for your recorded voice inquiries. In my case, I asked my Google Home about the weather a few times in the morning (queries also include a timestamp).
Clicking on “Details” on the left, under each query allows you to see which of your devices received the query (including multiple Google Homes), as well as the coordinate location. Hitting the “Play” button lets you hear the full voice command, including the Google Home activation trigger “Hey, Google” — ironically, while testing this, my Home heard this over my PC speakers and triggered the weather report again.
After you’ve listened to a few of your previous voice searches, if you feel slightly uncomfortable over your coordinate location also being recorded, you have the option to permanently delete the recordings. Click on the hamburger icon (the three vertical dots) and click “delete”.
If you want to delete all queries within a certain period of time (such as a day, a month, or a a full year), click the hamburger icon on the “Today” header, or the “Delete activity by” link on the left-hand side of the page on desktop. From there, you can delete by the day, set a data range, or select “all time” and delete all inquires you’ve made on your Google account since the beginning.
Before you confirm the deletion, Google will warn you that the deleted data can’t be recovered, including a link to Google’s policies regarding data collection and deletion. Once you click delete, the query is gone forever with no ability to undo. If you’re nervous about what Google Home has recorded, it’s worth noting that the data never leaves Google’s servers or reaches third parties.