The Machines Are Coming For Us

Google Home will now be able to recognize different voices.

Photo: ep_jhu/Flickr

Here’s an inevitability for a future that we all knew was coming but appears to be happening somewhat sooner than predicted.

Google Home will now recognize up to six individual voices, so that your entire family can say “Ok, Google, tell me what’s on my calendar” to a sentient cylinder sitting on the kitchen island and get an answer unique to them in response.

Google Home Now Recognizes Specific Users’ Voices, Allows For Multiple Accounts

Once the feature rolls out to your device, all you need to do is say its catchphrase — “Ok Google” — three times in its general direction, like a game of “Bloody Mary” but different. That’s it. Once you’ve registered your voice with the thing, it’ll be able to distinguish your voice and your digitial personality — apps, contacts, etc — from the rest of your family.

Consumerist points out that while the hub will be able to recognize the individal voices of your family, it doesn’t prevent other users from using it. If Burger King decides to release another ad that triggers the thing, that’ll still work.

Burger King Releases New Ad That Activates Google Home Devices

A guest could ostensibly yell “Ok, Google” in its general direction and it would still wake up. Technically, I guess a robber breaking into your house could yell the same thing, though I’m not sure how much damage that would cause to your personal information. If the robber has a voice that sounds dangerously close to yours, saw the Google Home on the bookshelf and decided to start asking it questions, they’d be in for quite the surprise.

Or, if your twin sister has a voice that sounds a lot like yours, who’s to say that the Google Home will be able to tell the difference between your voice and hers? Do you want your twin sister to have access to the highly personal shit you’re yelling at the thing from across the room? I think not.

There’s also this point:

Previously, Google would know what sort of searches, requests, and directions you gave to Home, but it never knew if it was specifically you or just anyone within microphone range who wanted to hear a summary of the Wikipedia entry on Botswana. Now it knows with some certainty that it was you — or your husband, or your cousin Ralph — who made that request.

I’m not suggesting that you burn your Google Home or your Alexa or disable Siri and start taping over the camera on your computer. But isn’t unnerving that you’re letting this thing know more and more information about you? I’m sure one day in the future we will all be required to use a Google Home or an Alexa or Siri — but until then, maybe we should be good with what we have until it’s no longer an option.

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