Google Search Permissions – can take pictures and record audio whenever it wants.

Posted Dec 20, 2012 at 10:45 am in Threads > News

I was going to update Google Search yesterday, then I read the new permissions. It says that it can record audio without permission and take pictures or videos any time it wants without authorization! Scary. Uninstalling…

Here it is:

Record audio
Allows the app to record audio with the microphone. This permission allows the app to record audio at any time without your confirmation.

NEW: Take pictures and videos
Allows the app to take pictures and videos with the camera. This permission allows the app to use the camera at any time without your confirmation.

Wasn’t google’s tagline before ‘do no evil?’


  • LucenNox

    That does sound kind of scary, but if I had to take a guess, they are probably just gearing up for full voice activated search, which would have to listen constantly for you to ask it something, and being able to bring up information on landmarks, products in real time.

    From what I’ve heard, Google Now, and by extension search, is likely a testing ground for future devices (i.e. Google Glass), which won’t be able to use traditional input methods.

    In the next couple of releases, I could see it taking advantage of these permissions to, say, pull up nutrition info or price comparisons automatically while at stores, without having to press a button for every single item, and hope you got a good picture, or to pull up word definitions in the middle of a conversation.

  • WlfHart

    If they are testing for a future product, why not make those permissions voluntary opt-in… not required in order to update?

    • CTown

      Google Now is opt-in. The first time you press the search bar you have to accept the Google Now terms. Otherwise, you use the normal Google search that was there before Jellybean.

      • MC_Android

        No one forces you to use it. I’m not saying it’s not creepy but you, as the consumer, is not coerced into using the service

  • BrotherBloat

    it’s kinda standard that any app that has a camera use or audio record function built in has those kinds of permissions, isn’t it? Otherwise every time you press ‘voice search’ or ‘photo search’, it would prompt you to use a camera, no…?

    At the same time, yeah, those permissions read literally are really scary, but so is every single social network-related T&C page ;-)

  • OpenIntro

    So Google is planning to record me and take pictures of me while I am reading articles on the toilet? greattttttttttttttt.


  • herbivore83

    “Don’t be evil” doesn’t mean “don’t collect information to provide the best possible services we can.”

    The new permissions are for photo search, barcode search, and Shazam-style sound search. If you don’t like new awesome features, then go ahead and don’t update.

    You’re just numbers and stats to Google. It’s a bit delusional to think they care about your mundane conversations or pictures of the inside of your pocket.

    • matthew

      But they do care about the mundane conversations in our email herbivores83 to target you specifically with ads and search results. Thia leads to at least two problems:

      1) As a corporation they have a legal responsibility to make money for shareholders. No law says they have to keep or uphold their motto of don’t be evil. Your terms of service can outlive their current priorities and value.

      2) As they tailor service and results to you specifically, you lose the serendipity and free access of the internet that made it so revolutionary. The more children see what google believes fits their opinions and likes, the less opportunity they have to grow and evolve freely in unexpected ways. The algorithms become self-fulfilling prophecies.

      • johnnytdlaw

        Actually, although they are a publicly traded company, they do NOT have a legal obligation to make money for their shareholders. Rather, they do it because it’s a good business practice and to fail to do so will hurt their share value.

        as for the permissions issue, bottom line is that it is VERY disconcerting. the likelihood of abuse of surreptitious recording of audio and video is not just high, but CERTAIN. the only real protection is to not own a smartphone. most folks say ‘yes’ to the permissions because it’s an all-or-nothing proposition. agree or don’t use the App.

        What most of us want to know is simple: WHY do these applications need to use my phone’s ability to call, network, hear, see and record all and so on? some of the answers are indeed intuitive and logical. Other’s have no rational basis. Either way, the permissions should be EXPLAINED to all in plain layman’s terms. Otherwise, there is no actual waiver of the privacy right. a waiver is a voluntary relinquishment of a KNOWN right. to say the app will use my microphone and camera the app is for my bank account, I really really need to know why Bank of **** wants or needs to record my audio and video. WTF?

        • Lee

          I totally agree Johnnytdlaw…I just removed Bank of ******* app for that same reason, in addition to many other apps, even games that you would never suspect recording audio, my point is the same…WHY? I understand the comment about Google voice activated but the clause about “with or without consent” I want to know when my text is being read or sent from my phone, when pictures are ttaken or audio is recorded… I have disabled apps on my phone that are unable to be removed and uninstalled almost all apps on my phone due to permissions, even Yahoo Mail app…crazy thing is GMail doesn’t have all those permissions but their search does…I am much more careful after the big FB Messenger scare, but people need to realize its not just FB, its nearly all apps!

      • Leslie Walker

        *WELL SAID!!*

  • lou2cool88

    I think that, like others have stated, it’s just so you can Google Search using voice and the camera. Nothing to be that worried about in my opinion but if you’re worried about it there’s always Bing……. (ew)

  • Shazam

    I’m ok with an app recording audio or using camera when I’m using the app and it is needed. Obviously some apps need to do that, but the problem is the “any time without your confirmation.” Why is that necessary?

    • orangestrat

      Thats just a wordy way of saying you don’t have to push a “yes, you can use the camera” button every time you start an image search.

      • Roger Lateiner

        Or a wordy way of avoiding saying “we wish to invade your privacy in every way possible”.

  • theha9

    In the extremes between ‘big brother’ and ‘freedom of information,’ the motive of this lies somewhere in the middle.
    It is definitely a concern; information that you think is useless is money in other people’s eyes.
    So whenever ppl casually say its okay that they give up one right/information just so they can benefit from the ‘free’ google services I roll my eyes.

    However, its probably not as bad as it seems and is probably just a problem with the wording of the statement, so I withhold judgement until more information comes out.

  • jonstle

    I have come to the conclusion that anything that requires voice to operate. Regardless of the system it is on requires a bit of privacy loss on our end to work and to continue to improve.

    As far as the pictures and video is concerned it is most likely for video and photo based searching similar to Google goggles.

  • KingCrow02

    Sounds creepy

  • Shazam

    As my favorite psychology professor used to say, ‘trust is the first step in getting screwed.’ And the intent may not be malicious but I don’t know the person sitting behind the controls. It’s too much power to blindly give anyone.

    • Leslie Walker


  • Jim Roberts

    Who owns the video? Audio? Taken with a Google app, do the rights to my pictures go to Google or are they mine?

  • mecky33

    This is the same issue that came up when the Microsoft Kinect came out. Any time the Xbox is on the Kinect camera and microphone are on. You can disable the microphone but it still has access to the camera.Two years later, you have yet to hear about Microsoft invading your home and using the Kinect for anything Big Brotherish. In the grand scheme of things, why would Google really care what you are doing as one person?

    • DHR

      Have you ever heard of hackers. Who knows who could gain access to it once the permissions are there. Some psycho looking for his next kill, who knows. There are crazy people in this world. Not to mention big brother. You have your phone there while you’re doing your income taxes. Watch out. I don’t think that was a legal deduction. OK. Maybe I’m going a little overboard, or am I.

  • Look whos talking now

    It’s useless until it’s useful. Google never throws away anything data wise. After 10 years of random photo taking and voice recording, whomever has access to the catalog named ‘you’ will find many ways to monetize the info. And because you agreed it’s now a catalog named ‘you’ that you have no access to. I see why it needs the right to use the camera and voice, I don’t see why it needs to do this without my consent or even when using the application.

  • Look whos talking now

    Sorry that’s even when NOT using the application

  • wildkarrde21

    Ultimately, I think we’re going to reach a breaking point (or in some cases, already have) where in order to provide the absolute best services it can, you will be giving up an unacceptable amount of privacy.

    I, for one, despite Google Now’s scarily astute suggestions, have turned it off just because I don’t care for any one to know that much information about me. I’ll happily stay in the stone age of having to manually look up traffic for my commute home :)

  • Janice

    If you haven’t read George Orwell’s 1984, I suggest you do so. Even his nightmarish dystopia didn’t dream of giving away such control. I’m going to be uninstalling a lot of apps. Even the Droid Flashlight wants permission to take pictures without my permission. For a flashlight????

    • orangestrat

      Thats how it turns on the light. To access the camera flash, you need access to the camera

  • G.

    If you believe this is _only_ to make using the app more convenient, I have a bridge to sell you (and if I dress up as Santa Claus, will you let me get into your house while you’re asleep?).

    Google has more than enough re$ource$ to get their legal language and ToS language correct, and to make it say _exactly_ what they want it to say.

    The mere fact that they are seeking permission to turn on your mic and camera without your consent and when you’re not using the app, is sufficient to demonstrate that this is more than what it’s being sold as.

    From _1984_:

    As O’Brien passed the telescreen a thought seemed to strike him. He stopped, turned aside and pressed a switch on the wall. There was a sharp snap. The voice had stopped.

    Julia uttered a tiny sound, a sort of squeak of surprise. Even in the midst of his panic, Winston was too much taken aback to be able to hold his tongue.

    ‘You can turn it off!’ he said.

    ‘Yes,’ said O’Brien, ‘we can turn it off. We have that privilege.’

    I for one will have nothing to do with these digital monkey traps. I still value my privacy, my freedom, and my human dignity.

    And when _you_ can’t turn it off, what does that make you?

    • Paige

      This is the most insightful comment on this matter I have read. Thank you.

    • Leslie Walker


  • kazahani

    [/tin foil hat]

  • G.

    Kazahani, I’m calling you out here and now: Terse little emotional putdowns do not constitute a rational arguement, so you lose.

    I dare you to come up with anything like a legitimate basis to activate peoples’ cameras AND microphones without notifying them, especially when they are not even using the app.

    You can’t make a rational case because there isn’t one to be made. Check and mate, or game, set, and match.

    So what’s in it for you to be carrying Google’s water for them, eh? Are you merely mesmerized by shiny toys? Or do you work for the Goog or some other entity that will reap a major benefit from walking telescreens?

    IMHO you can take your compromised objectivity and put it where Google wants to put their flashlight.

    • Ron Bell

      this is all total bullshit it is from marketing tactics only and to learn more but what you are talking about and what interest you, it can decide to invade your privacy at any time the only good use for it would be for artificial computer and AI computer, when I read everything I agreed to, being a salesperson and 3rd generation sales person I know what they are selling information information is the most powerful thing in the world, more powerful than any amount of money, specially when you can sell it you gather all up for free listening to people looking at their photos knowing what they want knowing who to tell people what to take what not to take what to be afraid of what not to be afraid of what movies to watch full movies not too much which is good which is bad because he is driving is going on all the time, yes I had to agree to it in order to enjoy my apps, I cannot believe they are charging me to get all the information they need the most powerful thing in the world!

  • AL

    Wake up. Google was created by CIA and NSA. Those agencies increasingly need to know everything about you including what you think. Yes. They can have full access of your phone including microphone and camera. This data could go to their new data center. Not that anyone there would be listening and checking on you, but rather, the data will be stored there forever in case it is needed. Root your phone. Uninstall every application that has anything to do with Google including Google framework. Get root firewall and prohibit internet access for android system and other applications. Delete facebook and twitter. You can still use both via a regular web browser (on your phone). Use LBE Guard to set permissions for every application. You’ll be amazed as to how many applications (virtually all) have access to location and phone id…. In addition, you will get at least 50% better battery life.

    • Ron Bell

      of course it is new so Mun the new so Mon best show on it won’t let me say what I want to only let me talk I can not type it in I am trying to say so lon run by the government s sha long.

  • Eric

    I first noticed it in banking apps. They all seem to have the “camera feature”. What bothers me as well is that it is minor surgery to take the battery out of my Razor Max HD.

  • Maureen Martin

    It’s way worse than that. One of the permissions allows google to make phonecalls and send texts, that could cost me money,without my intervention. I didn’t downlaod the update after ì saw that and ì’m now considering uninstalling google on my pc and all other devices.

  • Brandi

    I work in a medical facility with required HIPAA regulations. So does that mean, if I’m sitting at my desk, with my phone on, listening to music, etc, that I’m violating HIPAA regulations by allowing some outside, unaffiliated company access to what we’re doing/saying??

    • Ron Bell

      how come all of these replies are from 2 years ago, technology doubles as self every 18 months maybe twice a year now, where are the newer comments

  • alex

    “One of the permissions allows google to make phonecalls and send texts, that could cost me money,without my intervention.”

    This permission has been there since the birth of Android. Get Permissions Denied and disable “Call Phone” and Call Phone Privileged” for the entire phone, as opposed to per application. These permissions won’t effect your ability to make or receive regular calls, just the calls made without you noticing them, i.e., calls that don’t show up on your screen.

  • orangestrat

    This is fundamental to how it works. The code that listens for you to launch a voice search needs that permission. It is not recording your every word and sending it to a neck bearded guy in a basement, its waiting for you to say “Google…show me pictures of cats”

  • orangestrat

    Guys, did you know that Google Instant sends every LETTER you type to Google’s servers?!?!?! THEY”RE SPYING ON US

  • Shane

    Too many trusting, naive sheep out there. Yes, you could say it’s just for shopping or voice control. Or they could take pictures of anything at anytime for any propose…without you knowing.

  • robb

    Time to come together and execute a class action law suit for their discusting violation practices.

  • wendizzle

    Its not only Google making the ridiculous app permissions requests.Today I had 7 different apps that needed to be updated and requesting to take pictures and record audio and video without my knowledge. Wells Fargo, AVG, a cake making game and a bible app , just to name a few apps that don’t require a camera or voice to operate yet are making such requests. These App permissions are outrageous, scary and SUPER INVASIVE! Soon we’ll have absolutely no privacy.

    • Mike B.

      I was talking about this just today with my wife.

    • jiff moose

      It’s too late, the NSA already have ALL your privacy… In a word Prism. It’s loud and clear on every sacred dollar bill.

  • Mike Bandy

    Totally, I was reminded of that myself. So I am going to uninstall Google myself. Thanks.

    • SHA1

      one night i uninstalled all the apps that i found invasive and by morning most of them were back on and the uninstall button was lightened and i could not choose it anymore. What can i do?

  • Bad Android

    The hardware control permission come stock on your androids youtube app. This is for both audio and camera. And from a legal standpoint the permission state the app CAN record without my confirmation and that is Creepy!! Whether you have something to hide or not, whether they are using it for good or bad. I DO NOT LIKE THE IDEA OF ANYONE LISTENING OR WATCHING ME WITHOUT MY CONFIRMATION

  • FullAuto5.56

    I was looking at an app last night called strobe alert, which strobes your light when you get an alert of your choosing. I was reading through the agreement and it was the same thing… Take pictures, record audio and video at anytime… also this app was designed

  • wakeup

    Privacy is getting ridiculous!
    Is time people open their eyes and “GOOGLE” it.
    i understand, developers build app we buy it if we like them, the point is to make money.

    What type security requires full control of end users device.(camera, calls, contact, and what not?

    should we have full control of the devices we own? or GOOGLE or company X .LLC?

  • bradfits

    This is really cool! thumbs up to google!

  • Tenisball

    look at the message . .. camera and Mic at any time without permission . .. whoally fuck this mind blowing . .. has the world fallen out of its tree ??? fuck that for a joke

  • merry

    That is all alarming to me seeing as I sleep with the phone on my headboard because I use it for an alarm (doesnt everyone).Scary to think someone could be watching what goes on inside my home

  • tomuchfun

    until we the people rebel against Google and uninstall there apps they will continue to invade our don’t even have to be using your phone, you can be in your car and your phone in the cradle or have your phone on your nightstand by your bed. You give them an in they will take a mile.
    Looks like they have already took the mile.

    • Ron Bell

      yes and you can be having private moments with your wife, trying to keep secrets to each other, if i hacker breaks into this program of theirs where they get al the information they want in order to use the applications we want to yours we have to sign off on this, now I know how on Google Earth it can see underneath gas station covers

  • Larry Graham

    It’s BS to use my cam or audio you request from me and not on your conditions. Those who think it’s OK do not understand or give a zxxx about the direction this leads.

  • al

    we should have the option of tuning the camera and microphone Off and on as needed.

  • jay

    Big brother owns part of Google…..Facebook…..u name it they got their fingers in it.

  • josh

    I am not sure if you know this but I use this app allthe time and I noticed about 1/2 of the time I search something Google takes a snapshot i f me. Big privicy breach. Going to uninstall and ues default app.

  • Tor

    I see Ebay Mobile wants the same access to my Android camera and microphone settings. If I do not give them this access they won`t allow me in to their good society. Allow us access to the rest of the world. I feel sick all over every time I have to allow such intrusion in to my private live.

    Its not the matter of who we trust or not, why would we ever allow anybody to listen in or spy on us like that. We have no choice anymore, how could it ever become like this.

    I remember George Orwell’s 1984, nobody ever believed it should come to that. And that, that`s nothing. I am in my 50 ties and still remember how it feels like to have a private life. Perhaps young people today do not know this feeling, this value. They trust to easy, like fruits ready to be picked….. for free. Of course they wants our privacy, its money, its power. Why if it comes out of hands and used against us, It happens all the time. It just did and they had to tell us about it, so they could replace our passwords. Otherwise they woclaimlame its 100 % safe; safe like a bank,……… the Titanic perhaps.

    We have no privacy no more, that for sure. They should pay us instead of claiming it for free. Its money to them, etransferednfered in to stock and marked share value.

    Still we all give them what they want,……. everybody else do it and I have nothing to hide; we tell our selfs… not anymore anyway.

    Where is my rights to say no and still be a parsocietyis sosiaty, its my human rights we all agreed about in Geneva. So where are the electede ellected to police, take care of our rights. Are they all paid of?

    Real time bad guys and terrorist are not traceable, they do not use cell phones or such medias. So are everybody that say no such criminals too..surveillance survialance? They get us by the ball nowrefusecan I refuce? Please let me know how.


  • Tor

    This is not the same I wrote?

  • Chris

    Holy shit. You people are nuts and clearly don’t even have a minimal knowledge of how Android works. Seriously, I hope you people are sterile.

  • 0trek

    a few thoughts..

    -don’t take your phone/tablet with you to private meetings, put it in a drawer, etc.

    - there’s a good opportunity to develop voice and video scrambling solutions that
    are phone external.

    - get an amateur radio licence and use scrambled voice for long distance comm.

    - whether Google, fbook, etc are benign is debatable / hard to evaluate. Unfortunately
    the infrastructure is in place were an aggressively totalitarian regime or faction come into
    control. of course it’s easy to posit all kinds of infringements, I’m just suggesting you
    have a plan to do without these potential eavesdropping devices if need be.

  • Marcrest Henderson

    Dude this exact same thing happened to me on my android gs3 Wut does this mean?

  • SHA1

    I turned these apps off and they turned themselves back on by morning and now the disable option is faded or frosted, not letting me chose to turn it off again.
    anyone have this problem?

    • Leslie Walker

      YES! I canNOT uninstall most of these google apps!! Or if I do disable & then uninstall, they turn themselves back on and now there is NO option to get rid of them. Some of them have 00.00kbts and yet they accumulate cached data! WTF? Tell me this is not just plain WEIRD!

  • Steve

    Hardware developers need to come up with anew auto shutter cover and possibly a way to disengage mic until you use an app that requires it and you know they are being used.

  • Nick Gray

    I have not read through all the comments, but I think many of you are missing the point of the permissions that these apps are asking for. The reason they want access to certain features without confirmation is so that they can do their job without YOU having the press “accept” every time you want to do a voice or picture search. how annoying would it be if you said “OK Google” and then had to tap the screen to confirm that you wanted to do a voice search. Then you would have to do the voice search and them tap the screen again to confirm that you want to complete the search.

    I’m not saying that we should blindly trusting Google or any other company, but we do need to realize that these companies will not stick around for long if they actually were abusing the permissions they are requesting on our devices.

  • greg

    Stingray,TVTA,ADVISE,DARPA,TALON, analitics,testing and assessment portfolio data,smi catcher,harris corp,honey pots.maluuba,dmoz DPSSes.all brought to YOU by your google and android need to be concerned,bu

  • greg

    Stingray,TVTA,ADVISE,DARPA,TALON, analitics,testing and assessment portfolio data,smi catcher,harris corp,honey pots.maluuba,dmoz DPSSes.all brought to YOU by your google and android need to be concerned,bu