Today, Google has defended its practice of having workers listen to requests from Google's User Assistant, following the leak of 1,000 voice recordings to media. Google also said that it would try to prevent future leaks of voice recordings from its users.
VRT NWS, a news agency run by a public broadcaster located in the Flemish region of Belgium, said that she "was able to listen to more than a thousand of
Google Assistant is used on Google Home smart speakers, Android devices and Chromebooks.
"In these recordings, we could clearly hear addresses and other sensitive information," says VRT's article. "It made it easy for us to find the people involved and confront them with the audio recordings."
The VRT said that she "lets the ordinary Flemings hear some of their own recordings" and that these people have confirmed that the recordings contained their voices.
Google Home is supposed to record only when users say "OK Google" or "Hey Google" trigger phrases. But VRT NWS said that 153 of the 1,000 recorded recordings "were conversations that should never have been recorded and during which the" OK Google "command was obviously not given". The recorded voices that were transmitted to VRT included "conversations in the bedroom, conversations between parents and children, but also hot lines and business calls containing a lot of confidential information."
Google: a leak violates the data security policy
Google has responded to the story of the VRT in a blog article today.
"We have just learned that one of the [our] The language reviewers violated our data security policies by disclosing confidential Dutch audio data, "said Google," Our security and privacy teams have been activated, investigated and we will take action. We are currently conducting a comprehensive review of our warranties in this space to prevent such reprehensible acts from happening again. "
Google had previously announced that it was hiring language experts to listen to recordings and had defended this practice in its blog.
"As part of our work to develop speech technology for more languages, we work in partnership with language experts from around the world who understand the nuances and accents of a specific language," wrote Google. "These language experts review and transcribe a small number of queries to help us better understand these languages, which is an essential part of the speech technology development process. creating products like Google Assistant. "
We asked Google today if its internal employees were also listening to the recordings. A spokesperson for the company answered "yes" and added that "we apply a wide range of safeguards to protect the privacy of users throughout the review process (both internally and with our companies affiliated) ".
Users can disable the recording of voice activity
Amazon, Apple and Google all have employees who listen to intelligent assistant recordings, Bloomberg wrote in April. At that time, Google had acknowledged to Business Insider: "We only perform a very small portion of audio transcription to enhance voice recognition systems."
Amazon recently confirmed that it stored Alexa conversations until customers delete them.
Google's blog today announced that it was using "a wide range of safeguards to protect users' privacy throughout the review process."
Google users can disable the recording of voice activity and other types of personal information on the website of Google's activity controls, where they can also delete previous records. For more information on managing and removing data from Google Assistant, check out this Google help page.
"Language experts only review about 0.2% of all audio snippets," Google said. "Sound clips are not associated with user accounts as part of the review process, reviewers should not transcribe background conversations or other noises, only edits sent to Google." . "
The company also stated that Google Assistant "only sends audio to Google once your device has detected an interaction with the wizard". But Google has recognized that sometimes its software "misinterprets noise or words in the background", which leads to "false acceptances" in which people's voices are recorded when they do not try to use Google Assistant.
Google explained to Ars that the storage of voice and audio activity is disabled by default when users create Google Accounts.