Google to take action against third parties listening to your conversations


The clips, which were leaked by a whistleblower in collaboration with the Belgian broadcaster VRT, included information which was recorded even when the user had not said the magic words, "Ok, Google". Now a fresh controversy has emerged around Google and its Assistant, where the company confirms doing the very same - but there's still no need to worry. According to the report, Google has thousands of people worldwide listening to audio excerpts; in Flanders and Holland alone about a dozen people.

VRT said it "let ordinary Flemish people hear some of their own recordings" and that these people confirmed that the recordings contained their voices.

The clips include fragments of deeply personal conversations, including people's addresses, information on someone's love life, and what sounded like a woman in distress.

"This is a critical part of the process of building speech technology", it said, adding that the storing of recordings is turned off by default when people start using its Home devices.

In response to this story, Google has issued a statement explaining that it uses language experts to review and transcribe about 0.2% of queries, and they are instructed to ignore conversations not explicitly meant for Assistant.

Beyond simply revealing how accessible these recordings can be, the investigation also sheds some light on questionable polices - or the lack thereof.

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After facing widespread criticism for eavesdropping on users' conversations via its Assistant to improve speech recognition technology, Google said that it was conducting a full review of its safeguards in this space and would take action against third-party contractors involved in this incident.

VRT NWS, with the help of a whistleblower, was able to listen to more than 1,000 excerpts recorded via Google Assistant.

Monsees also insisted that Google's voice assistant software rarely makes voice recordings without a command phrase.

Google responded by saying the failure to make users aware of a microphone in Nest Guard was nothing more than a mistake. Google anonymizes the data by deleting the user name and replacing it with an anonymous serial number, but the actual recorded conversations sometimes reveal identifying information.

Amazon, Apple, and Google all have workers listen to smart-assistant recordings, Bloomberg wrote in April. More information on how to manage and delete Google Assistant data can be found at this Google help page. Amazon, for instant, records and retains conversations on its Alexa devices, and it employs humans to review some of them.

This report is indicative of the fact that despite Google's promises of keeping your privacy intact, it can never be said that your data is 100% safe with the companies.