Yes and no. The only authorized means of acquiring Republic’a app is via Google’s Play Store. While I’m confident, it’s available at alternate app repositories, it’s not there with Republic’s authorization. One also needs to ask themselves the question; are the folks running various alternate app repositories more trustworthy than Google?
I’d also point out the articles referenced in the initial post mention Google’s Home devices rather than Android. I’m not so naive to believe that Google can’t and doesn’t use Android as a means to gather information.
The reality is we give up a substantial degree of privacy merely by stepping outside. Cameras (if not listening devices) are literally everywhere.
Finally, if it helps at all, I personally know someone who has transcribed the snippets mentioned in these articles. Google’s not lying when they say no personally identifiable information is supplied to the folks transcribing these snippets although it remains possible those being recorded might mention something personally identifiable in the snippet itself. For what it’s worth, she tells me, generally, the content of these snippets is so mundane she has difficulty staying focused and, therefore, Google might not be getting everything it thinks it’s paying for in terms of the quality of these transcriptions.
I’m not attempting to minimize privacy concerns. That said, the only way to have truly robust privacy these days is to remain totally off the grid (and probably not venture outdoors publicly either).