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Saying 'OK Google' could become optional in some cases and it's a bit concerning

"OK Google, how do we raise privacy concerns again?"
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By
September 1, 2021
Sony Xperia 1 III Google Assistant
Robert Triggs / Android Authority
TL;DR
  • Quick Phrases will let you perform Google Assistant tasks without requiring the “Ok/Hey Google” hotword.
  • You will be able to set alarms, control your music, and more with this in-development feature.
  • It’s still unclear when Quick Phrases will roll out or which devices will support it.

You may soon no longer need to use “Ok/Hey Google” to get the Google Assistant to perform certain tasks on your phone and smart home devices. 9to5Google has unearthed more details about the feature code-named “Guacamole” that the publication first discovered in April. Google might call this new feature Quick Phrases.

This includes the ability to set or cancel alarms, control your music, set reminders, ask about the weather, set and control timers, and more. Along with “Ok Google,” your phone will listen for these activation phrases as well. Without more details about how Google plans to “listen” for these phrases and what it will do with this data, it might be too soon to ring the alarm bells. However, it’s definitely an added concern for a company that takes a beating in the privacy arena all the time.

Related: What are Google Assistant routines, and how do you set them up?

Back in July, Google provided Android Authority with more information on how hotword detection works and how the audio is processed. Google mentioned that “if no activation is detected, then those audio snippets won’t be sent or saved to Google.”

Quick Phrases will likely function the same way. But that still opens up the possibility of a lot more data collection than before because of overlaps with everyday conversation. I’m as likely to say “pause the music” to a person as I am to my phone or smart speaker.

Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom. Yet. The feature is still in development, and it’s not clear when it will release or which devices will support it. Although it seems like just the thing Google would drop with the upcoming Pixel 6. Even then, you have complete freedom not to activate this feature. You can also pick and choose which phrases you’d like to use. And if you don’t want to use Google Assistant at all, you can disable it quite easily.