Although records are not associated with user accounts, users often share personal information, such as names and addresses, that may reveal their identity. And although Google does not register until users say phrases like "Hey, Google" or "OK, Google", devices sometimes use fewer words or phrases to record conversations than they do. They are not supposed to listen. Some of these conversations end up being transcribed by "language experts" hired by the company.
According to Google, transcribing conversations in different languages is essential for creating a speech technology that includes all languages, accents and dialects. According to the company, reviewers are asked to only transcribe audio files intended for Google, not background conversations or other noises.
Nevertheless, the practice and the fact that Google's devices sometimes incorrectly record audio data raises many concerns about confidentiality. according to wiredAccording to experts, Google violates the privacy rules of the European Union, which protect sensitive data such as medical information and require transparency on how data is collected and processed.
Google is not alone, though. Amazon also uses humans to review and transcribe the sound collected by its Echo devices. At the moment, users have to say a sleep word before the device registers, but a patent suggests that Amazon wants to remove this limitation. And Amazon clings indefinitely to your transcribed conversations unless you manually delete them. This could be of particular concern for families using Echo Dot Kids.
A Google spokesman said wired that the company will consider how it clarifies its use of user data. At this point, the practice of recording and transcription of audio seems to be a widespread practice throughout the industry. The only thing that will change is the degree of transparency companies have in the use of their data.
Update from 7/11/19 11:11 ET: Shortly after publishing this story, Google shared an answer on its keyword blog. We have updated this story to add additional information from the company.