back to article 'Hey Google, remind Greg the locks have been changed, and he should find a new place to live. Maybe ask his mistress?'

Having failed to grasp the lesson of Microsoft's annoying animated Office assistant, Clippy – humans hate being hectored by software – Google has empowered its Assistant software to remind people to do things at the behest of another. On Thursday, the Chocolate Factory declared that it has created Assignable Reminders, which …

  1. Brian Miller

    Dystopia, one improvement at a time

    You have the option of opting out Dystopia. We won't track you, really. Nobody will listen to what your phone's microphone records, really. Our service will improve. Listen to your phone, which will remind (nag) you: take out the trash. Wash the car. Alert you that the parcel on your front porch has been swiped. Did you vote for (insert balmy political party member here)?

    Once upon a time, when I was a child, we used pencil and paper for this. We left scraps of paper, hoping that said friends and family would read them. Shopping lists in the pocket. Maybe even strings around a finger, but I never did that myself because I would forget why I tied the string there. But once we do this with the assistance of our cell phones and corporate overlords, then we become data points for ... advertising.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Dystopia, one improvement at a time

      They've taken something we could already do, by scheduling a message being sent or making a voice call, which is already a normal part of life, and managed to write code to make it unbelievably irritating. Congratulations guys. What's next? Maybe, instead of making a mechanism for people to yell at other people about taking out the trash, you could invent something that takes out the trash. Or just stop inventing things. You've gotten overeager again.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Dystopia, one improvement at a time

        Or just stop inventing things.

        Not going to happen especially with Google. There's too much at stake here such as mining every advertising penny they can. Just another reason in my opinion to dump and never use any "smart" device.

        1. slartybartfast

          Re: Dystopia, one improvement at a time

          It would be great if we could dump all smart devices. Problem is, technology is constantly being invented that will rely on them more and more. There's talk of using smartphones in supermarkets to scan and pay for our goods via an app (mainly a cost cutting measure by the supermarkets). I read an article recently that said there are trials of a system that scans your phone when you get on and off a train so that you can be charged for your journey without having to queue for a ticket or scan any ticket barriers. I assume these technologies will be rife with data mining too. Sounds dreadful but I could foresee a time when non-smartphones are made obsolete and we're all forced to have a smartphone.

          1. LenG

            Re: Dystopia, one improvement at a time

            "There's talk of using smartphones in supermarkets to scan and pay for our goods via an app"

            Sainsbury's supermarkets in the UK have had an app for this for some years. I tried it once and went back to the dedicated scanners. Why? They fit on the bracket on the trolley so you don't have to hold the damn phone all the time and also the in-store Wifi had dead spots.

      2. lglethal Silver badge

        Re: Dystopia, one improvement at a time

        Or just stop inventing things.

        Google havent invented anything for at least a decade, probably 2. They've refined things, made some things easier, brought other things "on to a computer" (which for some reason makes them patentable, but thats a different rant for a different time). But they havent invented anything.

        Invention is hard, risky and costs time and money. It's much easier to simply sell companies ads and come up with new ways to show those ads to the consumer. There's no invention involved.

        Unfortunately, thats true of just about the whole current IT/tech sector. When was the last time any of them actually invented something new? Not simply improved on something already existing...

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Dystopia, one improvement at a time

          You can truncate your first sentence after four words and still be accurate.

          1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

            Re: Dystopia, one improvement at a time

            You can truncate your first sentence after four words and still be accurate.

            Not strictly true, they're invented some very effective ways of targeting advertising through data-mining. Shame that this makes you the product, and not the customer, but the big G doesn't care.

        2. the Jim bloke Silver badge
          Thumb Down

          Re: Dystopia, one improvement at a time

          But on the other hand, there is a stigma attached to supporting existing products and services, "its just maintenance.."

          So all the so-called talent will be trying to get onto new projects, all sexy and shiny, irrespective of how useless or stupid the idea actually is, and the products that people do use are starved of resources.

          Google is not the only entity guilty of this.

          1. veti Silver badge

            Re: Dystopia, one improvement at a time

            Preach it, brother. Maintenance is the hardest and most important part of the software life cycle, but also the least rewarded. (Because it's hard to sell, that's why.)

            Until we can solve that, dystopia is kinda baked into the world.

        3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Dystopia, one improvement at a time

          Google havent invented anything for at least a decade

          Bullshit. I'm not a fan of Google, but they do considerable primary and applied research. The 2012 version of Spanner had novel features, particularly in its handling of time skew. The same can be said of Percolator. Google's SHA1-collision research was significant. Google researchers have made a lot of contributions to ANNs. They've done some QC work which is potentially useful, if we ever reach the point of having commercially viable QCs (I'm not holding my breath). And so on. Google has produced a lot of tech for large datacenters, as should be obvious.

          Google researchers have published nearly 500 papers so far in 2019.

          This information is all readily available. While I imagine you and the other knee-jerk Google-bashers would rather revel in your ignorance, the fact is that Google funds quite a lot of R&D.

          Let's attack Google for its actual sins, not the faults we imagine, eh?

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Dystopia, one improvement at a time

            Michael, none of what you reference is an actual new invention. All of it incrementally builds on the work of other people. For example, Spanner is based on the Paxos algorithm, the protocols for which were first published almost ten years before google even existed.

            1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

              Re: Dystopia, one improvement at a time

              Frankly, jake, that's a load of crap. By that standard, no primary research is "an actual new invention". And the most important novel aspect of Spanner is its handling of time skew, which is in no way anticipated by Paxos. (And, by the way, I'm very familiar with Paxos and its many variants.)

      3. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Dystopia, one improvement at a time

        Google have to invent things otherwise they could never fill up the Google Graveyard.

        When Stadia gets knocked on the head it's going to be so funny. It's not even been launched yet and you can see the writing on the wall already.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan

          Re: Dystopia, one improvement at a time

          writing on the wall already

          Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin..[1]

          ("You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting". How very appropriate).

          [1] The orginal writing on the wall. In Aramaic..

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dystopia, one improvement at a time

        "you could invent something that takes out the trash" - good point!! Why has no-one ever crossed a Roomba with a pedal bin and created a device that does exactly this?!?

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Dystopia, one improvement at a time

          In the early/mid 1980s my much hacked Heath HERO1 would push the kitchen trash can over to the back door to remind me that it was trash day. After about a month I stopped it. Was cute, but useless ... and once, when the trash was top-heavy, it spread garbage all over the ground floor.

      5. jelabarre59

        Re: Dystopia, one improvement at a time

        Could they perhaps write an app to automatically tell Google what a bunch or corrupt yet incompetent morons they are, so I don't have to constantly send them feedback for every damned stupid and/or irritating thing they do? Maybe something where I can point my phone camera at a page and say "Hey Google, you're being dipshits again..."

        1. veti Silver badge

          Re: Dystopia, one improvement at a time

          No need to wait, all the tools to create a bot for that are already freely available.

    2. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: Dystopia, one improvement at a time

      I've mentioned before that I only use my Google Home as a radio and its lack of reliability in that one simple task.

      The last couple of mornings I don't get beyond "OK, Google" before the thing spits out "I'm sorry, there seems to be a problem", "I'm sorry there's a glitch" and "I can't do that right now" so rapidly that the phrases overlap and it can only be restored to its usual barely-usable state with a hard power cycle.

      The dystopian future is not one in which an evil corporation controls your every movement, but one in which you can't actually do anything because everyone at the would-be-evil corporate overlord that mediates all your communications has got locked into their daily scrum by the "intelligent" door control system.

      1. frank 3

        Re: Dystopia, one improvement at a time

        On a long enough timeline, all companies become the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation.

        Share and Enjoy!

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Dystopia, one improvement at a time

          Go stick your head in a pig!

          It's Friday & thus it's lit up for special celebrations.

      2. wayne 8

        Re: Dystopia, one improvement at a time

        They're letting you know that you are about to be terminated.

        "I'm sorry Dave, I can't do that."

    3. The Nazz

      Re: Dystopia, one improvement at a time

      Best hurry up, won't be long before all advertising is banned. :

      In one, three people, a whole three people, complained.

      1. Kiwi

        Re: Dystopia, one improvement at a time

        Best hurry up, won't be long before all advertising is banned. :

        Scotty, beam me up. No intelligent life down here :(

        Like many, I've been a "victim" of all sorts of "stereotyping". Like many, I've learned to laugh at these things and enjoy them.

        The only thing "harmful" in all this is shutting down a chance for someone to make the adds a bit of a laugh.

        Oh, and to the complainers -especially those who aren't gay but would complain about any form of "gay stereotype" - you DO NOT have the right to get offended on my behalf. If we don't take offence at something then you have no bloody right to do so for us! (Said because, well, I'm sick of busybody SJWs thinking they should speak up for me. Worry about your own life!)

    4. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: Dystopia, one improvement at a time

      I, for one, would relish some balmy politicians. So much better than the barmy ones we have now.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hey Google!

    Get the fuck out of my life & delete all my personal data. Kthnxbai!

    1. Psmo

      Re: Hey Google!

      OK. Who were you again?

    2. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: Hey Google!

      Please login into your account and select "pause".

      If you do not have an account, you need to create one so we can pause our tracking*

      *We only pause data that you know about and for this very specific use and not the other 1000 ways we track you"

      1. stiine Silver badge

        Re: Hey Google!

        re: IGotOut

        Truer words have never been written.

  3. elDog

    Wild-ass guess but probably correct: No google exec will allow this to monitor their (in)actions

    Perhaps via fiat or via software filters, but I'm sure gg/fb/az suits don't allow their shit to be monitored/alerted.

    Just the same for all the bigwigs - use encrypted communications away from the claws of this plebeian crap. Dystopia.

    1. Guy 2

      Les dawson

      It’s just him, ‘the mother in law reminded me over and over again until a sympathetic rat bit through the power cord’

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

        Re: Les dawson

        A very friendly & sympathetic rat indeed.....didn't it find a lonely robot in a dark room & crawl into a cavity in its right ankle?

    2. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: Wild-ass guess but probably correct: No google exec will allow this to monitor their (in)actions

      I'm not sure what's scarier - the idea that they're trying to push this sort of thing on people despite knowing how terrible it all is, or the idea that they might actually genuinely think it's all a good idea and use it themselves as well.


    Hey Hal!

    Open the pod bay doors.

  5. jake Silver badge

    Hey, google ...

    ... remind everybody in my google contacts database to tell you to fuck the hell out of our private lives, and to tell them to remind everybody in their google contacts database to do the same, ad infinitum.

    1. Keven E

      Re: Hey, google ...

      "Assistant users will only be able to send reminders to people in their Google family group or people who have accounts linked to the same Smart Display or speaker and who are both Voice Matched and listed in the initiator's Google Contacts database."

      Too many parameters... nobody's a match.

  6. Michael Hoffmann


    Does it go "bingle-dee-bingle-dee-beep" and a little imp comes out? Sounds about as annoying.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Disorganiser?

      Noooo don't give Google ideas..... coming to you Google IMP... Now the annoying reminder will find you ... aarrrggghhhh !

    2. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Disorganiser?

      At least with an imp you could strangle the little sod.

      I wonder with this app, how long before a disgruntled family/group member tells someone repaetedly to ' Kill xxxxxx' or ' go and kill yourself' and that someone complles.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Disorganiser?

        You don't strangle 'em with IMPs, you drop 'em on the little sods.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Coming soon, to a divorce court near you....

    "Hey Google, remind Alicia to actually make a dinner, instead of constantly buying that meatloaf from Boston Market."

    "Hey Google, remind Bob that I would make dinner more often, if he would pick up the kids from soccer practice himself once and awhile."

    "Hey Google, remind Alicia to stop flirting with Troy from down the street, because he's five years younger than her and she is just embarrassing herself."

    "Hey Google, remind Bob that at least Troy remembers that I am a married woman. He probably wouldn't have forgot our last anniversary."

    "Hey Google, remind Alicia that I remember our anniversary date, because that was when the sex stopped."

    Etc., etc.

    1. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: Coming soon, to a divorce court near you....

      Thanks for changing our names.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Coming soon, to a divorce court near you....

      On the plus side, this kind of exchange may well lead to one or other of the parties involved smashing the sodding thing into tiny pieces, thus ameliorating the situation somewhat.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Coming soon, to a divorce court near you....

        "smashing the sodding thing into tiny pieces,"

        Except that "the sodding thing" is every every Google enabled device in the family/group. Oh...wait, I see what you did there. Well done, carry on :-)

    3. Cxwf

      Re: Coming soon, to a divorce court near you....

      There will absolutely be people who use this function this way. However, those are the people who were going to fight with each other anyway, and the only thing new is the method.

      Hopefully the rest of us can resist the temptation =)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: and the only thing new is the method.

        Nevertheless, I reckon being reminded of some irritating chore via one of these automated messages is likely to be substantially more annoying than any in-person "have you remembered to do X" remark (or even a text); and that as such it will probably make arguments more likely. YMMV, naturally.

    4. disgruntled yank Silver badge

      Re: Coming soon, to a divorce court near you....

      Actually, if you go to and search for "Siri", you'll find they were way ahead of you

  8. Blofeld's Cat Silver badge

    Hmm ...

    "Hey Google, remind Big Larry, Ginger and Max that the bank job goes down this Saturday, and remind Ginger to bring the shooters this time."

  9. tfewster Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Brilliant - I'd pay to hear exchanges like that. Maybe an army of unpaid users could curate (anonymised) conversations and post them on YouTube where they can earn Google a secondary revenue stream?

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      I'll upvote the creativity but lets not given ideas.

    2. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      Why pay to hear the exchanges? Get a job with Google transcribing them and they'll pay you to listen.

      (aside: how long before someone on the transcription team is fired for adding a deliberate typo for comedy effect?)

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The "burner" phones at garages, marts and other locations are generally loaded with spyware/adware/clickfraudware/etc.

    The worrying thing is not so much that they are blatantly gathering personal data but that they then send said data back to the mothership using the 4G

    or Wifi which is not cheap. That 10-20MB a week can make all the difference especially with things like background downloads.

    I used to have a phone which despite multiple wipes and resets kept downloading demented adverts the second 4G turned on.

    Usually its the M***at*k ones but some others have been known to hide nasties in the firmware, or update to NastyOS V6.66 at a later date, or simply load the firmware with a usage trigger so after so many days of use or so many GB of mobile usage it "Updates"

    Hint: when it says it is running Android Vwhatever. check to see if Twitter works. If it does not then the phone is lying to you!!

    The normal symptom is a page security warning.

  11. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Every day, in every way...

    I'm getting less and less inclined ever to allow an AI into the house.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Every day, in every way...

      You were ever so inclined? Astonished, I am.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: Every day, in every way...

        To be honest, no.

        But now my inclination is *well* below zero and still going down.

  12. Paul D Smyth

    This is terrible

    Said no parent of a teenager ever :-D

  13. katrinab Silver badge

    Hey Google

    Remind katrinab to:

    Sign up for a heterosexual dating site

    Buy a pregancy testing kit

    Book a nursery school place

    Buy food and farming equipment for the herd of cows that apparently resides with her in her 2nd floor apartment

    Buy baby clothes

    Sign up for all the blockchain investment scams that are going

    Buy a funeral plan

    How long before this happens?

    1. Psmo

      Re: Hey Google

      And ordering may be critical for some of those.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Hey Google

      The fun will start when they roll out Google Automatic Reminders™ based on everything they've slurped about you.

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: Hey Google

        There was such a thing, called Google Now, which was completely useless

        - "You should jump out the train window, walk to the nearest bus stop, and take various buses to get to some retail park that you sometimes visit, never by bus".

        - "You parked your car in the middle of Piccadilly Circus, here are the times of the buses back home"

    3. deadlockvictim Silver badge

      Re: Hey Google

      Katrinab: Sign up for a heterosexual dating site

      Katrinab: Buy a pregnancy testing kit

      Aren't you a self-proclaimed soft butch lesbian or am I mis-remembering?

      Google has long known when you'll need either, both or neither of the aforementioned items, so I wouldn't worry. Just tell Google that you're feeling lucky...

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: Hey Google

        You remember correctly.

        An intelligent person who sees someone looking at pictures of women would not conclude that they are looking for a boyfriend, but Google does it every time.

        1. deadlockvictim Silver badge

          Re: Hey Google

          Well then, I hope you are happy that Google doesn't know you as well as it could. You could, em, assist the algorithm further and peruse some of the gay male porn sites or maybe some sites on the glamour of Hollywood musicals from the 1950s.

        2. Psmo

          Re: Hey Google

          Even if you got one, Google wouldn't stop the adverts.

  14. Antonius_Prime

    Er... The EU might want a word...

    "At least Google has anticipated that some people may want to opt-out: In conjunction with the arrival of Assignable Reminders, Assistant Settings will gain a gag control option"

    Didn't the EU decide that Opt-Out was Not Good (TM) and it should be Opt-In?

    Glad I don't have the digital assistant's turned on and dialling home locked down.

  15. Danger Mouth

    Candy Crush EULA Line 31,415

    Embedded deep in the bowels of various ELUA's will be something like:

    The owners of Candy Crush will be automatically added to any Family and Friends Google Groups. By continuing to play this game, you accept these terms and conditions.

    You play a game at 09:50 then...

    From your Google Assistant:

    10:00 Candy Crush says: Remember to play Candy Crush

    10:03 Candy Crush says: Sweet.

    10:06 Candy Crush says: Tasty.


    22:30 Candy Crush says: Sweet Dreams

    22:33 Candy Crush says: Special offer, only available for the next 30 mins. Buy one....

    02:00 Candy Crush says: Are you awake?

    02:10 Candy Crush says: Are you awake?

    02:20 Candy Crush says: Have you tried playing our new game: Insomnia Saga?


  16. Winkypop Silver badge

    Burn them

    Burn them all with fire

  17. TimMaher Silver badge

    Brain the size of a planet.

    Could we at least get Google to use Marvin for the voice-over?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Hey Alexa, play go-between. and tell Simon I know he slept with that trollop from the office"... "Tell Karen she should never have slept with Nigel"... "Tell Simon his dinner is in the dog",,, "Tell Karen I've donated her entire shoe collection to Oxfam"...

  19. Just Enough


    The year is 2022 and William carelessly clicks on an ad on his browser. Suddenly a voice booms out from his laptop speaker;

    "Hey Google, remind my father every Monday to send £100 to Bank of Scams, Account 123456789.

    Hey Google, remind my wife every Monday to send £100 to Bank of Scams, Account 123456789.

    "Hey Google, remind the accounts department every Monday to send £100 to Bank of Scams, Account 123456789.

    "Hey Google, remind my bank ev.. "

    William's cursor plunges for the volume control, but it's too late. Google has heard....

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Inevitable

      "a voice booms out from his laptop speaker;"

      That must be a very expensive laptop. Nothing ever "booms" out of the laptops I've seen.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Parents looking to induct their children into this brave new world of communication"

    Brave new world? Nineteen Eighty-Four, more like.

    1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      Re: "Parents looking to induct their children into this brave new world of communication"

      You are perhaps unaware that "Brave New World" is also a dystopian novel, written some 30 years before 1984? Both are very good. In fact I still sometimes say "Roof! Oh, Roof!" in an ecstatic voice when I get in a lift.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: "Parents looking to induct their children into this brave new world of communication"

        I suppose the argument could be that these devices, which listen perpetually, are more in keeping with 1984's society than that of Brave New World. On the surface, that makes sense, but on another reading, probably not. In 1984, a malicious government installs the devices and forces their use. In Brave New World, there is a controlling government, but they've gotten everyone in society to never really consider anything. It's still done by force--people didn't give up their old ideas of their own free will--but nobody really cares that that happens and anyone who does care is seen as a weird person who can be ignored, rather than one who needs to be taken away. The use of devices with such a dubious privacy record which people voluntarily decide to purchase and install is on the Brave New World side of the continuum.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: "Parents looking to induct their children into this brave new world of communication"

          Whoever thought this would be a good idea certainly would appear to be taking as many hallucinogenic drugs as Aldous Huxley...

  21. Captain Scarlet

    No use where I live

    The "Assistant" has been myseriously unplugged for over 2 weeks.

    Currently at 3 weeks before anyone notices, no-one asks it any questions, only shown off when people are round.

  22. Sebastian Brosig

    Smart reply

    On the topic of google "Smart Reply": while away on business in Asia the other week i received a brief note from the better half on the not unexpected, but still sad, imminent demise of her mother:

    "Re: Granny / Really at the end now. Could be hours or days..."

    Gmail's helpful suggestions for an appropriate reply were "I know!", "Wow!" and "Love it!"

    1. disgruntled yank Silver badge

      Re: Smart reply



    2. Alister

      Re: Smart reply

      Sorry to hear that.

      It does remind me of the probably apocryphal tale of a lady in her 60s who received a text from a friend regarding the death of her friend's partner, and who texted back "So sorry to hear of Jim's death LOL"

      She thought Lol meant "lots of love ".

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Smart reply

      Gmail's helpful suggestions for an appropriate reply were "I know!", "Wow!" and "Love it!"

      Sounds like it recognized "mother-in-law" just fine. Liking one just seems to be a bit beyond it.

    4. Martin Silver badge

      Re: Smart reply

      Which is why I switched those "helpful suggestions" off as soon as I could work out how to do so.

      (And it wasn't that straightforward, either).

  23. Teiwaz

    Smart Diary additions next...

    Arrived today, made very welcome.

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

      Re: Smart Diary additions next...

      That would be telling. We want information… information… information.

  24. Robert D Bank

    imagine the bloody thing pipes up and says 'see you on the other side punk'.

    (damn, just saw the two previous ones beat me to it!)

  25. Esme

    Hey Google, can you tell me where I can get a new life from, please? Thank you.

    (a while later)

    Hey, google, please live my old life for me - I've just got this spangly new retro one, see, that doesn't include AI. So long, and thanks for all the phish.

    (door slams)

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Family Link

    "Parents looking to induct their children into this brave new world of communication can create accounts for those under 13"

    My 10-year-old already created his own Google account behind our backs, merrily clicking accept on the terms and conditions that say he can't have one until older than 13. Its impossible to stop them, apart from completely blocking their access to the internet, and even then they'll just use someone else's device.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Family Link

      Ever thought of using explanation and/ or discipline?

      1. deadlockvictim Silver badge

        Re: Family Link

        I find that long passwords help too.

      2. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Family Link

        Explanation doesn't work completely for children that young. If the system concerned makes it easy enough, the child will probably go ahead with it, especially as they can't do some things without having an account. Explaining about privacy, legal restraints, etc. doesn't really penetrate their minds, because they don't know how many ways they can be tracked. I remember setting up an account in my childhood thinking that I must be completely safe because I used a different name, an address constructed from a random number, fake street name, and a postal code from a directory site, and a birth date set to make my age 27. That account actually was safe, because it wasn't from a company that did extra tracking, but I would not have had the knowledge to determine safe from unsafe. Discipline might not work either; the parents have to know exactly what the child is doing at all times. If the child doesn't understand the systems well enough to know what is allowed and what isn't, they could end up thinking that all activity online is forbidden. In general, I'd try to ensure that the child already has accounts for things they will want to use, such as email, which can be restricted or audited by the parents until the child has a clearer concept of what can happen online. Explanations might help, but I don't think they will be sufficient on their own.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I had some new setting set on Amazon Alexa which told of deliveries. I never switched it on and didn't know about it until my Son rang and told me that he'd gone in the kitchen and asked why it was glowing yellow.

    It told him his present was going to be delivered that day. I'd done everything to keep it a secret.

    F**k Alexa! (and Google Assistant for that matter - it's equally bad).

    We have one in the living room - my Wife mentioned about some magic eraser things to clean a stain off the wall. Next minute, I'm getting adverts about them. Tin foil hat or not - highly suspicious. I didn't even look for them on my phone.

  28. Rol Silver badge

    Self inflicted dementia?

    "Alexa! When was it that humans lost the ability to err...err..."


    "Yes that's it...err...err...err"


    "What would I do without you?"

    "Approximately 2030"

    "You're having a laugh Alexa. It's not even midday"

  29. steviebuk Silver badge


    "software-as-a-servant" ):o( oh fuck off Wilson.

  30. Roland6 Silver badge

    Coming soon, to a company near you....

    First it was done face-to-face then by text message now:

    Hey Google, tell George in Sales he's fired and suspend his system login and security pass....

  31. Conundrum1885


    Why does the Echo Dot not include an actual radio?

    Its not hard, basic DAB is doable using a $0.50 RF micro plus if the Internet goes out it stays connected.

    For that matter have it bidirectional so the Echo Dot acts as a hotspot for nearby radios.

    (sends this idea to Google)

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Random

      Probably because it wouldn't help much. These devices don't process speech locally, so if the connection goes down, you couldn't tell it to turn on the radio. You could put a normal set of radio controls on top, but now that's a larger change that the manufacturer doesn't care about.

      I don't understand your hotspot suggestion. Are you suggesting that the voice assistant should have a WiFi network for radios? Why? And if you're instead suggesting that it broadcast radio signals for a broadcast receiver to pick up, that's illegal. I'm not sure what you want.

      1. Conundrum1885

        Re: Random

        Micropower FM transmitters are actually legal: Last I checked it was a special chip with limited output power and PCB antenna. If memory serves they are in the 108 MHZ range

  32. Kiwi

    This could be a good thing.

    Time to this being widespread : 600hours

    Time to mass annoyed people smashing their google spybots in an orgy of effectively ending the annoyance : 600:00:01hrs

    Now lets hope Alexa et all end the same way.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This makes clippy look downright pleasent and helpful.

    When compared to the experience of your smart speakers becoming an extension of a nagging, back seat driving wife.

    As long as this feature is available on a smart speaker I am not buying it. And if my wife buys a smart speaker and starts using this feature I will block it on the network.

  34. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    On a related note...

    I recently set up a shared google calendar with my partner to assist with plannign events, holidays, etc.

    This entailed her adding an event during a period where we are going to be on holiday, with a location in the description.

    Cue FB adverts about "things to do" at said location. (I don't see thse because I kill everything with fire - adblock and noscript by default)

    So, google is obviously text-scanning the description of items in the calendar and tailoring adverts to match. My question is this - does anyone know of a good free alternative to google calendar that allows sharing of multiple calendars between members of a group that actually respects privacy, and doesn't sell your information to advertisers at the drop of a hat?

  35. Conundrum1885



    Have also seen variants that use the good old fashioned tuned crystal harmonic (tm) method, these are very good but typically have terrible dynamic range.

    I did see a version that used an actual dedicated IC possibly also included on some Sony MP3 players and strangely enough Minidisk.

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