Can Google home be used as a Microphone?


Google Home and a smart phone

There have been lots of speculations about whether the Google Home can be used as a microphone. Nonetheless, the reason for inquiry varies from one individual to another. While some are concerned with extending Google Home’s utility, others are worried that their conversations are being recorded. However, they need not worry as far as Google Home is concerned.

Yes, Google Home can be used as a Microphone. It is always listening but the device will not respond until you speak the activation phrase. The mics can only be used during calls, but you cannot use it as a dedicated Bluetooth mic like you would in the case of a Bluetooth speaker.

Smart devices like Google Home make life a lot easier, but they also represent privacy concerns. Although Google Home, Hub, Nest are among the largest growing smart home gadgets in the world, some people refrain from adopting them due to security reasons.

Indeed, Google is always listening, but it’s not what you think. This guide aims to clear that confusion once and for all by answering the various security/non-security questions associated with Google Home. So, without further ado, let’s begin.

Does Google Home have a microphone?

Yes, Google does come with a pair of far-field microphones. They enable the smart device to pick up your voice even with all the ambient noise that is going on inside the room.

The activation of Google Home is indicated by the colorful dancing lights at the top of its slanting head. However, the device is not just an embodiment of the Google assistant you find in every Android smartphone. It’s more intuitive than just a simple app.

New mic features in Google Home

The Google Home comes with the hot mic feature which keeps listening for additional prompts for up to 8 seconds after the first question. For instance, if you ask what the name of Christopher Nolan’s first movie is, the reply will be Following(1998). But if you ask how old he is, the device will instantly mention Nolan’s age. 

1. Hot mic- This feature is called the hot mic feature where Google Home is still trying to pick additional questions from the speaker, even after answering the previous prompt. You can also turn off the mics by simply saying ‘Thank you. You can deactivate this feature from the Google Home app if it seems inconvenient.

2. Multiple prompts at once- Another great feature of Google Home is its ability to reply to multiple questions. You can set a 10-minute timer and add vegetables to the shopping list in a single sentence. The Google Home will understand that you are trying to execute two different commands and will answer them accordingly.

These features will not be possible without the two sets of microphones, because even the slightest noise or distortion can cause Google to misinterpret things and give a wrong answer.

I have grown so accustomed to Google Home that it’s now impossible for me to return to my old setup. It’s truly amazing how a virtual assistant sets appointments and keeps reminders of my daily schedules. The device may not be able to operate without my input, but it’s only a matter of time before technology finds a way. It always does.

Can you connect your mic to Google Home?

No, you cannot connect any Bluetooth or wired external mic to any Google smart device, including Home, Mini, Nest, and Hub. The only microphones that work with these devices are the inbuilt ones. All assistant commands and responses must pass through the far-field microphones and the device speakers.

Does the device listen to me without knowing?

Smart devices like Google Home or the Amazon Echo Dot are always listening. If they were not listening, then they would not be able to reply when you say the activation phrase. However, listening is not the same as recording, 

This has been an ongoing debate since Edward Snowden exposed NSA surveillance documents. The topic resurfaced in 2019, as I came across multiple news articles related to this issue.

The fact that your device is listening in on you is not a secret anymore. Although no official records are stating the same, it has become common knowledge. There have been multiple cases where smartphone users received ads based on products they never searched online.

But they were talking with their friends about the same product, and the following day, they started receiving ads. I have experienced this myself, and although it seems a bit creepy, you cannot do anything about it. 

Before you start panicking you should know that it’s completely legal. Although it’s not explicitly mentioned, the fact these services are collecting data is hinted at in the User Agreements. In addition to smart devices, social media platforms, and other apps, all have a similar clause in their user agreement policies.

Even your smartphone listens in on your conversations, and like most devices, it uses them for marketing purposes. Although the developers claim not to abuse the practice, it’s still unsettling.

How to avoid being spied on from smartphones and Google Home?

The always-on feature of most voice assistants poses the biggest vulnerability. The best way to get back some control over your privacy is by disabling the always-on microphone features. Note that you will lose access to voice assistants if you follow through with the process.

There is no way to completely switch off all monitoring apps. However, you can mitigate some of the spying capabilities by:

1. Deactivating ‘Hey Siri’- Go to Settings > Siri & Search > Toggle off ‘Hey Siri’.

2. Disabling ‘OK Google- Go to Settings > Google > Search assistant & Voice > Google Assistant > Voice Match > Toggle off ‘Hey Google’.

To turn off Google Assistant entirely Go to Google Assistant’s Settings Page > General > Toggle off Google Assistant.

Conclusion

Google Home can be used as a microphone to some extent. You cannot use it as a standalone device, but it can only be used to hear voice commands and play audio. However, as long as it remains active, Google could be hearing in on what you are saying. Your device may be listening to you, but if it’s any consolation, it’s listening in on everybody.

Rune Bearson

As you can see, I love my headphones! I use them every day when commuting, watching YouTube videos, playing guitar/piano and doing chores. I'm a podcast addict and I like all kinds of music from metal to chillout ambient.

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