“Hey Google, don’t save any of my interactions with you.”

If you have a smart speaker or smart device but arent thrilled with the possibility that your data including your voice is being collected and stored on it, Google Assistant might have an answer for you: Guest Mode.
Google is introducing the new feature to its smart speakers and displays today. Its kind of like the Google Assistant version of Chromes Incognito Mode (though there are differences). Once Guest Mode is on, your interactions with Assistant wont be saved to your account. But, as Google points out, you also wont get the full, personalized Google Assistant experience. In Guest Mode, Assistant wont say or show personalized results for instance, anything from your contacts, calendar, or emails. But youll still have access to some of Assistants most popular features: the ability to control your smart devices, get the weather report, and play music.
All that said, Google notes that, while Assistant may not save your interactions with it in Guest Mode, other apps and services youre connected to and use while in Guest Mode might save that data on their end. For instance, if you look up a location using Google Maps or play your Spotify playlist, they can still keep a record of your requests. Thats something to keep in mind if youre using Guest Mode because youre doing something you really, really dont want anyone else to know about. (I would argue if its that important to keep whatever youre doing a secret, you probably shouldnt use a smart device when you do it.)
Another nice thing about Guest Mode is that, as the features name implies, you can use it for guests. Assuming were able to safely invite people into our homes again at some point in the future, activating Guest Mode when theyre around is a nice way to ensure that your devices arent collecting their data without their knowledge or consent. Or, more selfishly, that their requests or preferences arent saved to your account.
Guest Mode also shows the delicate balance between privacy and usefulness for voice assistants. Smart speakers and displays work best when they know as much as possible about us and our behaviors (like human assistants), but the tradeoff is that, well, they know as much as possible about us and our behaviors as do, by extension, the companies that make them. Depending on what you are using Google Assistant for, Guest Mode might work just fine for you all the time or in certain circumstances, and make you feel a little better that the data youre giving it isnt being saved to your account. But you may also decide that the loss of functionality isnt worth it.
If you want to see what a more private but less functional smart home device is like for yourself, you can try it now. Just say, Hey Google, turn on Guest Mode.
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