Google says employees listen to people’s conversations through Google Assistant
Google employees listen to conversations that happen between users and their Google Assistant, such as the Google Home smart speaker, the company has revealed.
A report from Belgian public broadcaster VRT NWS reveals how contractors are paid to transcribe audio clips that are recorded by the device.
The snippets are used to help improve the device’s voice recognition technology, Google said.
These audio clips are also used to help further develop the Google Assistant artificial intelligence system, which is used in Google Home systems and Android smartphones.
A spokesperson for Google told Wired 0.2% of all recordings are transcribed by contractors and “these snippets are not associated with user accounts as part of the review process”.
In the story by VRT NWS, the broadcaster reviewed around 1,000 recordings. In the findings, they discovered 153 of them had been captured accidentally.
Google Assistant is activated when the user says the ‘wake word’, such as “Okay, Google”.
However, the device recorded by mistake when the wake word wasn’t uttered.
Contractors have listened to sensitive information collected by Google Assistant on accident, VRT NWS said.
Google said users can manually delete audio snippets stored or set up an auto-delete timer on Google Assistant devices.
The company also allows users to turn off audio data storage completely.
An investigation has been launched by Google after some Dutch audio data was leaked.
Google issued a statement on this issue saying: “We just learned that one of these reviewers has violated our data security policies by leaking confidential Dutch audio data.
“Our Security and Privacy Response teams have been activated on this issue, are investigating, and we will take action.
“We are conducting a full review of our safeguards in this space to prevent misconduct like this from happening again.”
The revelations of contractors listening to Google Assistant audio recordings follows a Bloomberg report from earlier this year which said Amazon also listens to users conversations with their voice-based assistant, Alexa.
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