Two settings to achieve max smart home privacy

Some things Google Home knows about you are obvious — what music you like, how bad you are at math — because those are the things you rely on it for the most. But Google Home knows a lot more about you than you might realize. That’s because your smart home speaker is tied to your Google account, so it’s also connected to a deep well of personal information, like your email address and debit or credit card number. That means privacy and security settings are just as important with Google Home as with your Gmail account.



a close up of a stuffed toy on a table: Keep your personal information private by setting up Voice Match on Google Home. Josh Miller/CNET


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Keep your personal information private by setting up Voice Match on Google Home. Josh Miller/CNET



a stuffed animal sitting on a table: Keep your personal information private by setting up Voice Match on Google Home.


© Josh Miller/CNET

Keep your personal information private by setting up Voice Match on Google Home.


A lot of the same steps you should take to protect your Gmail account, like using a strong password and checking your recovery contact information, will help secure Google Home as well. But you may not know how to get to those settings using the Google Home app, which may be the only Google app you have on your phone or tablet.

Here’s how to find and set the two most important privacy and security settings using the Google Home app.



a close up of a light: Facial recognition technology has come under fire from privacy advocates, but it can also be used to help secure your data. James Martin/CNET


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Facial recognition technology has come under fire from privacy advocates, but it can also be used to help secure your data. James Martin/CNET

Secure your privacy with voice or face recognition

When you set up a Voice Match profile on Google Home, your smart speakers will listen for your voice and use it like a fingerprint to identify you. That way, only you can check your calendar, add to your shopping list or watch your YouTube playlist on Nest Hub smart displays. Other people can still use Google Home and can even set up voice profiles with their own Google accounts, but only you will have access to your information.

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That said, turning on Voice Match means possibly giving Google data about what you sound like. Google says that information is stored on your devices themselves and not in the cloud, although it may be “temporarily sent to Google to better identify” you. If you’re not OK with that, this feature is not for you.

Here’s how to set up Voice Match with Google Home (the process is the same for Face Match, only it uses your device’s camera and your face rather than its microphone and your voice):

1. Open the Google Home app, then tap your personal icon in the upper-right corner, then tap Assistant settings.

2. On the horizontal menu bar, tap Assistant and then scroll down and tap Voice Match.

3. Tap Add a device. The Google Home app will scan your current Wi-Fi network for compatible devices. Once it does, tap Continue. 

4. Under Activate Voice Match on this device tap the box labeled I agree, then scroll to the bottom of the next screen and tap the next box with I agree.

5. Follow prompts to teach Google to recognize your voice.



a hand holding a cellphone: Two-factor authentication isn't foolproof, but it does add a layer of security that makes breaking into your online accounts more difficult. James Martin/CNET


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Two-factor authentication isn’t foolproof, but it does add a layer of security that makes breaking into your online accounts more difficult. James Martin/CNET

How to set up two-factor authentication on Google Home

Two-factor authentication, aka two-step verification, isn’t a completely foolproof means of securing an online account, but it’s miles better than nothing at all. Having two-factor set up on Google Home means if anyone were to try to, say, set up a Google Home smart speaker using your stolen login info, they’d likely be thwarted unless they had also lifted your smartphone. The point is that it won’t hinder nor degrade your experience using Google Home, so there’s really no reason not to set it up.

The first thing you need to do is different depending on your phone:

Android: make sure you’re signed into the account you use for Google Home by opening Settings, then tap Accounts and then Add Account. Choose Google and sign into your account.

iPhone: Download the Gmail app from the App Store, if you don’t already have it, and sign in with the account you use for Google Home, then Allow notifications when prompted



a close up of a bowl: Two-factor authentication won't impact how you use your Google Home smart speaker once you've set it up. Chris Monroe/CNET


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Two-factor authentication won’t impact how you use your Google Home smart speaker once you’ve set it up. Chris Monroe/CNET

The rest is the same for every phone:

1. Open the Google Home app, then tap your personal icon in the upper-right corner, then tap Assistant settings.

2. Beneath the You menu, tap Your data in the Assistant then scroll to the very bottom.

3. Under More option to manage your privacy, tap the box labeled Google Account.

4. Scroll the horizontal menu bar at the top (the one that has Home, Personal info, Data & personalization) over and tap Security.

5. Under Signing in to Google, tap Use your phone to sign in. On the next screen tap Set It Up then enter your password and tap Sign in.

6. The screen should now say What you need with Your phone (with your phone listed) and Touch ID checked. Tap Next.

7. Beneath Try it you should see the email address for your Google Account. Tap the button labeled Next beneath it.

8. You should immediately get a notification on your phone asking Trying to sign in? (if you’re on an iPhone this notification will come from the Gmail app). Tap the notification and select Yes.

9. If your phone asks if you want to use either facial recognition or fingerprint identification (whichever your phone has) select Yes.

10. Go back to the Google Home app, which should now say It worked! Turn it on? and tap the box that says Turn On.

Check out our full guide to shoring up your Google Home privacy and security settings here, or our even broader guide to securing your overall Google account here. For email-specific privacy settings, here are four Gmail settings to change right away.

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