Over 500 million people use Assistant monthly: Google

Bloomberg New York | Updated on January 08, 2020 Published on January 08, 2020

As smartphone growth wanes, voice assistants have become important for the tech giants

Google said its digital assistant is used by more than 500 million people every month. Depending on your perspective, that is either a win for Google, or a big miss.

On the one hand, having the voice-controlled technology on over half a billion devices far outstrips main rival, which said last year that more than 100 million gadgets had been sold with its Alexa digital assistant.

However, Google’s Android operating system runs on roughly 2.5 billion devices. That suggests the Google Assistant either is not available with some of these products, or that many people are not using the service.

Either way, the numbers give a glimpse into the war between Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook to get their voice-controlled digital assistants in front of as many people as possible. For the tech giants, voice is the latest frontier for pulling people into their ecosystems, collecting data on them and then selling services or advertising based on that information. As smartphone growth wanes, voice assistants become more important.

Privacy matters

Alphabet’s Google and rivals have been under fire for privacy when it comes to this new technology. The companies often use human contractors to transcribe audio clips from people’s requests as a way to improve the quality of the AI algorithms. However, consumers are not always aware. Workers who did the listening recounted hearing all kinds of personal information, including home addresses and intimate conversations.

As part of its announcement, Google said it was adding more privacy and security features for the Assistant. Users have to opt-in to let Google keep any voice recordings made by the device, and now they can directly tell it to delete something that might inadvertently have been picked up by saying, “Hey Google, that wasn’t for you”, or “Hey Google, delete everything I said to you this week”.

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Published on January 08, 2020
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