Google Pixel Buds A-Series

Google Pixel Buds A-Series

Google
Bluetooth

Review date: Nov. 8, 2021

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Mozilla says

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People voted: Super creepy

Google's Pixel Buds A-Series include features like high quality audio, adaptive sound that adjusts to your surroundings, sensors and mics that can pick your voice up in a crowd. They even work directly with Google Translate to give you real-time translation right in your ears of languages spoken around you. Push a button, say, "Hey Google, help me speak French," and then speak in your normal language. Then your phone will translate to French for you. Groovy, although we know how funky Google Translate can get so, you know, just be careful.

What could happen if something goes wrong?

Google seems to do a better job than some of the other Big Tech companies when it comes to security and privacy. That said, you should be aware they are a huge ad company that needs your data to sell ads. So while they say audio recordings won't be used to target you with ads, transcripts of your voice interactions may. Google uses your personal information to show you ads all over the place like in your Gmail, in your favorite Solitaire app, on partner websites, and on YouTube.

We do like that users are now automatically opted out of Google's human review of voice recordings, because that was super creepy. We also like that Google does try to communicate with users how they collect and use data in their Safety Center. Google does collect a lot of data on you, especially if you don't take the time to adjust your privacy settings to lock down just how much info they can gather. You should absolutely take the time to adjust these privacy settings. Just beware, you will get notifications that some things might not work right if you change settings. That’s annoying, and probably worth it for a little more privacy.

What’s the worst that could happen? Well, we suppose Google could know that you like to listen to Taylor Swift on repeat and order lots of ice cream from the store. Based on that, Google decides you must be sad and starts showing you ads for homeopathic mood boosters. You try one, it doesn't work, but now you're on the mailing list of every weird vitamin company out there. That’s probably not going to happen, so, yeah, you’ll likely be ok. We hope!

Tips to protect yourself

  • Consider using your headphones without connecting it to an app. This way, you may decrease amount of data collected
mobile Privacy warning Security A.I.

Can it snoop on me? information

Camera

Device: No

App: No

Microphone

Device: Yes

App: No

Tracks location

Device: No

App: No

What can be used to sign up?

What data does the company collect?

How does the company use this data?

While voice recordings won't be used for ad personalization, transcripts of your voice interactions may be. Non-personally identifiable information may be shared with partners. Google says that your personal data is never sold to third parties. Google says they keep video footage, audio recordings, and home environment sensor readings separate from advertising, and they won’t use this data for ad personalization Google uses your personal information “to serve you relevant ads in Google products, on partner websites, and in mobile apps.” According to the company, customers own their data and it does not sell this data to third parties. Google does state it gets paid by advertisers for placing ads to you based on your personal information. Google says they send data outside of the organization only with a user's consent.

How can you control your data?

Google provides various privacy controls, accessible via Google Privacy tools. There are several clearly defined ways to delete personal data, incl. deleting data from Nest app or deleting a whole Google Account. An autotimer can be set up for 3 or 18 month. The retention details are also listed in the Policy.

What is the company’s known track record of protecting users’ data?

Needs Improvement

In August 2019, the company admitted that partners who work to analyze voice snippets from the Assistant leaked the voice snippets of some Dutch users. More than 1,000 private conversations were sent to a Belgian news outlet, some of the messages reportedly revealed sensitive information such as medical conditions and customer addresses.

In December 2018, a bug exposed the data of 52.5 million Google+ users

Can this product be used offline?

No

User-friendly privacy information?

Yes

Links to privacy information

Does this product meet our Minimum Security Standards? information

Yes

Encryption

Yes

Encryption in transit and at rest.

Strong password

Yes

Security updates

Yes

Manages vulnerabilities

Yes

Privacy policy

Yes

Does the product use AI? information

Yes

Google publishes academic papers about its AI research and makes several tools available via open source.

Is this AI untrustworthy?

Can’t Determine

What kind of decisions does the AI make about you or for you?

Google uses natural language processing to understand you and to generate answers to your requests.

Is the company transparent about how the AI works?

Yes

Does the user have control over the AI features?

Yes


News

Google is sending a complicated privacy email to everyone — here’s what it means
The Verge
Google is returning to having humans analyze and rate anonymized audio snippets from its users. However, it’s also taken the major step of automatically opting every single user out of the setting that allows Google to store their audio. That’s why you might be getting an email today: Google would like you to opt back in to the program, and it’s trying to provide clearer information detailing what it’s all about.
How to Use Google Privacy Settings
Consumer Reports
Google's privacy and security settings can take a little explanation to understand and use effectively. Here's a guide to the most important ones.

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