A journalist from the BBC was doing some ironing when her mum came in to tell her that a family friend had been killed in a road accident in Thailand. Her phone was on the worktop behind her.
But the next time she used the search engine on it, up popped the name of her friend, and the words, “Motorbike accident, Thailand” and the year in the suggested text below the search box.
The journalist started asking around: One friend complained to her boyfriend about a migraine, her first ever, only to find the next day she was being followed on Twitter by a migraine support group.
Another had an in-depth chat with her sister about a tax issue, and the next day was served up a Facebook advert from tax experts offering advice on that exact issue.
With an expert she investigated whether microphone on the phone could be listening in order to serve the user with ‘relevant’ ads. It was a resounding YES.
Google said, according to the article, that it “categorically” does not use what it calls “utterances” – the background sounds before a person says, “OK Google” to activate the voice recognition.