Google has a plan to improve hotword detection on Android, protect your privacy

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Google is working on a new technique that is aimed at improving hotword detection on Android smartphones while protecting users’ privacy.

According to a report by Android Police, Google is bringing a technique called federated learning to Google Assistant on Android smartphones. This technique is aimed to help the company’s virtual assistant detect hotwords “Hey Google” or “Ok, Google” better, including the incidents when the hotword is not used, also called the false positives.

The report says that some users are seeing a new Help Improve Assistant menu in the Google Assistant app. In this menu lies a toggle button that enables users to collect users’ audio recordings with the aim of improving its virtual assistant.

The company has also updated its support pages to reflect the changes. “When Google Assistant activates or nearly activates, federated learning temporarily stores short bits of your voice recordings on your device. With federated learning, we use these recordings to learn how to adjust Google Assistant’s triggering logic,” the company wrote on its support page.

“Federated learning is a privacy-enhancing technique that helps us improve machine learning models without a need to send your raw data to Google servers,” the company added.

Google says that as users turn the toggle on, federated learning will keep all on-device recordings it uses to improve the “Hey Google” model for 63 days after which they will be deleted automatically. Under the currently available settings, this data can be stored up to 18 months.

That said, this feature isn’t available widely yet. It is available for one device per Google account only.

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