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Google's new Assistant feature is an incognito mode for smart speakers

Just say, “Hey Google, turn on Guest Mode.”
Andrew Tarantola, @terrortola
January 13, 2021
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A 2nd generation Google Nest Mini smart speaker casting a sinister shadow, to represent issues of privacy and security, taken on December 12, 2019. (Photo by Neil Godwin/Future Publishing via Getty Images)
Future Publishing via Getty Images

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Last January Google quietly did away with the existing Guest Mode feature, which allows people not on your Wi-Fi network to connect with a Chromecast or smart speaker by entering a four-digit PIN, from its Home and Nest devices on account that some people and pets could hear the ultrasonic frequencies the two devices use to pair. Today, in the culmination of online privacy efforts the company first announced back in October, users will be able to turn off the voice recording features of their smart display and speaker like the Nest Audio or Nest Hub Max simply by telling it to.

This new Guest Mode is basically like Chrome’s Incognito tabs. When activated, it prevents your Google Assistant interactions from being recorded to your account. This can be helpful even when you aren’t getting verbally freaky with your Assistant. For one thing, it keeps the interactions of your friends and family have with your smart devices from influencing the personalized Assistant experience that you’ve gradually curated.

The experience isn’t foolproof, however. Even if you’ve got your smart speaker in Guest Mode, if you use Assistant to access another Google service like Maps, your interactions might be saved by that service if not directly to your account.

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