Google’s smart speakers and displays, like Nest Audio and Nest Hub Max, have a new feature as of today: Guest Mode, which makes the devices act more like a public Google Assistant terminal rather than a personal assistant, says The Verge.
All you do is say “Hey Google, turn on Guest Mode,” and your smart speaker or display will switch to a stripped-down version of the Google Assistant that won’t save Google Assistant interactions. To turn it off, say “Hey Google, turn off Guest Mode,” and if you forget if it’s on or not, look for the guest icon in the upper right-hand corner of your Nest Hub, or ask your Nest Audio “Is Guest Mode on?”
According to Google, Guest Mode is another easy way to control your privacy on the smart speaker, although you still might want to make sure your personal settings are on lockdown or unplug your speakers depending on the situation. But Guest Mode will not show any of your personal Google Assistant interactions or other personal information like your Google Calendar until Guest Mode is turned off.
But it’s still possible for your Google device to save activity related to certain Google services even when Guest Mode is on; Google still requires its smart speakers and displays be connected to a personal account so you or your guests can access any smart home integrations you might have set up.
Other providers’ apps and actions that you use with Google Assistant might save as well, like any smart lights or other smart home devices. So while any Google Assistant history might not be saved to your personal account, it could get saved on another service, app, or device.
Google’s Guest Mode help page notes Google services, like Maps or YouTube, that you use with Google Assistant might save to your device, as well.
Other features that will work with Guest Mode enabled include: Broadcast and Family Bell; anyone that’s set up household contacts and added people to their home can still see those contacts on the smart display; and any photos you’ve added to your Photo frame will still show up.
If this was the before times, I’d say Guest Mode sounds like an easy way for anyone to play DJ at a party, but throwing a party is at the top of the “Bad Ideas” list at the moment. Because Guest Mode also allows anyone to control smart home devices and setting timers, it could turn out to be a headache if you have mischievous friends or children.
Guest Mode seems more compatible with Google’s Nest Hub rather than its stand-alone smart speakers, too. I wouldn’t mind a guest mode to hide all my personal and work appointments, and search history, from visitors. But given that guests can still access features like Broadcast and Family Bell, or control other smart home devices with their voice, it seems less useful to have this feature on the speakers than the displays. If Guest Mode was about privacy, one would think guests would have even more limited access than Google’s new feature currently provides.
It’s also interesting to see Google pivoting back to some sort of Guest Mode feature, too. Almost a year ago to the day Google removed a different guest mode feature from its smart speakers that allowed anyone to cast content to Google Home speakers with just a PIN number. No need to be on the homeowner’s same wifi network. Chromecast is currently the only device that still supports the feature.