How dangerous is Google Voice Search?

‘Daaaad’ came the cry from the office, ‘what’s sex dot com?”

.

Google Logo
Trust me, these are not words that you either expect or want to hear from your seven year old son. A quick dash into the office established that in this particular instance all that had happened was that a search return had listed ten porn sites and the top one happened to be the aforementioned site.

.

“What did you type in to get this?” I asked
“I didn’t type anything, I used the voice search, watch daddy…..” with which my son proceeded to enlighten me in the ways of voice search.

.

Of course I’d seen it there before and knew what it was but had never bothered trying it, principally because like many others I’m perfectly happy typing things in and see no need to shout out loud that I’m looking for ‘saga dot com’. There’s something slightly more private about your browsing if you’re not shouting it out loud…..

.

The issue here was that the voice recognition software was having a problem with a child’s voice and whilst asking for a perfectly legitimate site it simply couldn’t recognise what was being asked and defaulted to sex dot com. Try it yourself, mumble a website and add dot come at the end and see how often it brings up the wrong result.

.

Being a reasonable tech savvy parent I’d taken all the usual precautions and locked down the parental controls which meant that even if he had clicked on the site it would not have shown anything, but the fact that it showed in the search return along with nine other sites I’d rather he didn’t visit showed just how vulnerable our kids are to the changes in technology. Of course I’d not disabled voice search, but as it comes as standard in Chrome and is automatically enabled it is there no matter which profile is being used. Try turning it off – I challenge you to do it without having to Google the solution; it’s hidden away in the settings and not anywhere in plain sight.

.

The issue here is that no matter how many precautions we take as parents the internet is still a dangerous place for impressionable children and in this instance from a source which I’d long believed wouldn’t have caused an issue in this respect. Google are now well known for hiding the pornography but in this case it seems that voice search is something of a loophole. Let’s hope that they can sort this sometime soon, or failing that at least give us parents the opportunity to turn it off easily. Whilst Google may want to integrate themselves into every aspect of our lives, some of us are happier still being in control.