Published: Fri, July 12, 2019
Electronics | By Kelly Massey

Google contractors listening, recording your bedroom talks via Assistant

Google contractors listening, recording your bedroom talks via Assistant

In the meantime, regular people have been transcribing what has been fed through Google Assistant.

In India, Amazon Echo led the Indian smart speakers market with 59 per cent share in 2018, followed by Google Home with 39 per cent unit share, according to International Data Corporation (IDC).

VRT NWS was able to listen to thousands of these excerpts, including ones that shouldn't have been recorded in the first place.

The report is claiming that Google employees are not just listening to a small percentage of enquiries (0.2%) but is then using subcontractors to transcribe them in a bid to improve their local voice assistant technology.

The reporters even played back some of the recordings for the people who had made them.

More than 1000 recordings were obtained by Belgian broadcaster VRT NWS, which noted in a story that some contained sensitive personal conversations - as well as information that identified the person speaking.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for further comment. "We are conducting a full review of our safeguards in this space to prevent misconduct like this from happening again", said Monsees.

We have recently learned that one of these language experts may have violated our data security policy by leaking Dutch-language audio clips. Monsees warned the leaker that "Security and Privacy Response teams have been activated on the issue, are investigating, and ...will take action".

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It says listening is "critical to developing technology that powers products like the Google Assistant", the software that powers the Google Home speaker and features on Android smartphones.

Filed in a federal court in Seattle, the lawsuit alleges Amazon of saving "voice prints" of millions of children by unlawfully recording their conversations around Alexa-enabled smart devices, reports Vox news. More information on how to manage and delete Google Assistant data can be found at this Google help page.

The idea behind the recordings is to make the speech recognition more accurate.

These contractors review almost 0.2 per cent of "audio snippets", as Monsees put it. Moreover, transcribers are instructed "not to transcribe background conversations or other noises, and only to transcribe snippets that are directed to Google".

But sometimes, the human reviewers end up listening to snippets of private conversations-whether they were made via a voice command or accidentally picked up by the Google Home device.

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.

Google told Ars that the storing of voice and audio activity is set to "off" by default when people create Google accounts.

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