Google Assistant’s new Guest Mode is more private, but there’s a tradeoff

Google Assistant’s new Guest Mode is more private, but there’s a tradeoff

2021-01-13 18:30:00

If you have a smart speaker or smart device, but aren't happy with the possibility of your data, including your voice, being collected and stored on it, Google Assistant might have an answer for you: Guest mode.

Google today introduces the new feature in its smart speakers and displays. It's a bit like the Google Assistant version of Chrome Incognito mode (although there are differences). Once guest mode is enabled, your interactions with the Assistant will not be saved to your account. But, like Google points out, you don't get the & # 39; full, personalized Google Assistant experience & # 39; either. In guest mode, the Assistant does not say or show personalized results, for example something from your contacts, calendar or emails. But you still have access to some of Assistant's most popular features: the ability to control your smart devices, get the weather, and play music.

That said, Google notes that while the Assistant may not save your interactions with it in guest mode, other apps and services you are connected to and use in guest mode may store that data on their end. For example, if you look up a location using Google Maps or play your Spotify playlist, they can still track your requests. That's something to keep in mind if you're using guest mode because you're doing something you really don't want anyone else to know about. (I would say if keeping everything you do a secret is so important, you probably shouldn't be using a smart device when you're doing it.)

Another nice thing about guest mode is that, as the function name implies, you can use it for guests. Assuming we can safely invite people back to our homes in the future, activating Guest Mode when they are around is a good way to make sure your devices don't collect their data without their knowledge or consent. Or, even more selfishly, that their requests or preferences aren't saved in your account.

Guest mode also shows the delicate balance of privacy and usability for voice assistants. Smart speakers and displays work best when they know as much as possible about us and our behavior (like human assistants), but the downside is that they know, well, as much as possible about us and our behavior – and by extension the companies that make them . Depending on what you're using the Google Assistant for, Guest Mode may work fine for you all the time or in certain circumstances, and you may feel a little better that the data you provide to it isn't stored in your account. But you can also decide that the loss of functionality is not worth it.

If you want to see what a more private but less functional smart home device for yourself is like, try it now. Just say, "Hey Google, turn on guest mode."

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