Humans might be listening to your Google Assistant recordings

Google admits listening to some smart speaker recordings

In response, Google confirmed that one of the company's language reviewers did leak the recordings to the Belgian new service.

It seems Amazon isn't the only company who hires people to eavesdrop on conversations you have with your voice assistant - Google has now been caught out doing the same thing, too. According to the report, Google has thousands of people worldwide listening to audio excerpts; in Flanders and Holland alone about a dozen people. Contractors review the script of the recorded query and confirm it matches with the voice recording. Some of these recordings contained highly sensitive and private information. "This is a critical part of the process of building speech technology, and is necessary to creating products like the Google Assistant", the blog post read. Google also says it's investigating the contractor whose workers blew the whistle for breaching data security policies. Google is also reviewing the policies it has in place for its transcribers "to prevent misconduct like this from happening again".

In a normal course, Google Assistant sends audio to Google after the device detects the user interacting with the Assistant - for example, by saying "Ok Google" or by physically triggering the Google Assistant. The publication also released a video report and says that out of the thousand excerpts they listened to, 153 had been recorded by mistake, meaning that the "Okay Google" command was not issued.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.

"These language experts review and transcribe a small set of queries to help us better understand those languages", he wrote. Following a report on how Amazon's Alexa works, it looks like Google is employing pretty much the same process for improving its algorithms.

The contractors and subcontractors further use these recordings to improve speech recognition technology. More information on how to manage and delete Google Assistant data can be found at this Google help page. Some of these conversations end up being transcribed by "language experts" hired by the company. Moreover, transcribers are instructed "not to transcribe background conversations or other noises, and only to transcribe snippets that are directed to Google".

Although virtual assistants remain widely popular, many are concerned with privacy risks associated with owning devices that listen to conversations from a corporate work space to a family living room. How many know that "real" people may listen to their conversations, and would that change how they interact with these devices or even make them stop using them at all?

To disable this setting, head to Google's Voice & Audio Activity page while signed into your account, then switch the toggle off.

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