Google's Echo-rival will have a special 'off the record' setting

Google knows how important it is to avoid crossing the “creepy” line, so the company is baking privacy controls into its smart home appliance, Google Home, CEO Sundar Pichai said on stage at Vox Media’s Code Conference on Wednesday.

The voice-powered device, which works a lot like Amazon’s Echo by letting users speak to it to make restaurant reservations, get the weather and play music, will ship with a physical mute button that you can use to turn off the microphone.

A previous version of this post said that Home would have an “off the record” mode where it wouldn”t store any data about search or queries, but Google said that that feature is not in the road map for now and that Pichai was speaking more generally about its view on privacy.

“You should be able to tell Google that over the last four hours, just take it off and go off the record,” he said.

When the microphone is off, users won’t be able to talk to Home, but can still do things like send their music playlists to the device via their phone.

Google had previously talked about how this setting will also live in its chat app, Allo, which is powered by the same virtual assistant. If you turn on incognito mode in chat, Allo won’t store any data or information from that conversation.

The real power of the virtual assistant is that it “learns” about its users by looking at their past interactions, but Pichai says that Google recognises that people don’t want all their information stored.

“The machine learning and AI will help us do privacy better,” Pichai said. “Over time we can get smarter at giving users sophisticated privacy controls.”

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