Google Contractors Are Reportedly Listening To Your Private Google Home Speaker Recordings

Sheri Evans
July 13, 2019

Although Google disconnects the audio clip from any identifiable information, VRT NWS found that it was on more than one occasion possible to put the pieces together and find the source of the clip by using context clues scattered throughout the recordings.

Monsees also insisted that Google's voice assistant software rarely makes voice recordings without a command phrase. Some of these recordings contained highly sensitive and private information.

"This is undeniably my own voice", one Flemish man told reporters when they played him a recording of himself talking to his Google Assistant. However, the search giant says that only about 0.2 percent of audio files are analyzed and that this work is crucial for sustaining Google Assistant.

These workers are asked to listen to the recordings and transcribe them in order to make the technology better at understanding different languages and accents. They included not only queries and requests people made of Google Assistant, but also recordings of random conversations, some of which included personal details such as addresses. "We are conducting a full review of our safeguards in this space to prevent misconduct like this from happening again", a spokesman said.

Google's smart speakers are recording users when they least expect it, according to temp worker language experts hired by the company to listen to the snippets - which include some of users' most private moments. Downside to this is that conversations may be recorded even if the participants never wanted to communicate with the smart device.

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According to the report, Google acknowledged that it works with subcontractors to transcribe conversations, which is meant to improve its speech technology (speech recognition automatically generates scripts, and the subcontractor then double checks for accuracy, correcting where necessary).

The Google contractor says the job entails listening to the recordings to check the accuracy of the assistant listening to users speaking in Dutch.

Although Google clearly doesn't seem to have nefarious intentions behind this effort, the fact that other people can listen to what you say to your device could be seen as a potential privacy concern. "Our Security and Privacy Response teams have been activated on this issue, are investigating, and we will take action".

"It is true that Google does not eavesdrop directly, but VRT NWS discovered that it is listening in". The recordings are disconnected from the users' information with the user name deleted and replaced with an anonymous serial number but the person can be relatively easily identified by listening to the recordings provided. They are not interested in what you are saying, but the way you are saying it. Google's computer system consists of smart, self-learning algorithms.

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