Wednesday November 20, 2019
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Beware! Third-Party Contractors Secretly Listening to your Google Assistant Recordings

Reacting to this, Google said it only transcribes and uses "about 0.2 per cent of all audio clips", to improve their voice recognition technology

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Google, Pixel, Smartphone, Camera
New leaked images of a pre-release Pixel 4 XL provided by Vietnamese phone shop D Store Mobile. Pixabay

Not just your home speaker, smartphone or security camera, even third-party contractors are recording and secretly listening to your Google Assistant recordings, a new report has claimed.

According to Belgian broadcaster VRT News, your conversations with Google Home speakers are being recorded and audio clips are being sent to sub-contractors who are “transcribing the audio files for subsequent use in improving Google’s speech recognition”.

“VRT, with the help of a whistleblower, was able to listen to some of these clips and subsequently heard enough to discern the addresses of several Dutch and Belgian people using Google Home,” The Next Web reported on Wednesday.

The transcribers heard just everything: personal information, bedroom talks, domestic violence and what not. VRT “overheard countless men searching for porn, arguments between spouses, and even one case in which a woman seemed to be in an emergency situation”.

Google assistant
This was despite the fact that some of Google Home users did not even say the wake word, “Hey Google”. Wikimedia Commons

The platform that the whistleblower showed to VRT had recordings from all over the world.
This was despite the fact that some of Google Home users did not even say the wake word, “Hey Google”. Reacting to this, Google said it only transcribes and uses “about 0.2 per cent of all audio clips”, to improve their voice recognition technology.

A Google spokesperson said in a statement that it has launched an investigation into this. The news comes at a time when Amazon Alexa is already facing scrutiny for allegedly recording conversations at home. Amazon has been sued by a Massachusetts woman on behalf of her 10-year-old daughter and children from eight other US states.

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.

The woman has alleged the e-commerce giant for illegally recording children and adding them to “a massive database of billions of voice recordings containing the private details of millions of Americans”.

google assistant
Reacting to this, Google said it only transcribes and uses “about 0.2 per cent of all audio clips”, to improve their voice recognition technology. VOA

Earlier in May, US Senators and a group of 19 consumer and public health advocates accused Amazon for recording and saving conversations that take place around its smart speakers, urging the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate into the case.

ALSO READ: Can Mimicking be Dangerous? Hackers Using Artificial Intelligence to Impersonate CEOs’ Voices

Amazon has time and again denied the charge that Alexa records private conversations. The company recently added support for new voice commands to let users ask Alexa to delete previous voice recordings. Amazon has also launched an “Alexa Privacy Hub”, supposed to offer an easy way to learn how Alexa works and find privacy controls.

The company has reportedly admitted it does not always delete the stored data that it obtains through its voice assistant Alexa and Echo line-up of smart devices. As reported by the CNET, Brian Huseman, Amazon’s Vice President of Public Policy, responded to Delaware Senator Chris Coons on June 28, informing that Amazon keeps the transcripts until users “manually delete the information”. (IANS)

Next Story

Google Brings a New Service Called ‘Your News Update’

The company said once "Your News Update" goes live, users will be able to choose between either the new audio news system or the original one

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Google, smart compose
The Google name is displayed outside the company's office in London, Britain. VOA

Google has introduced a new service called “Your News Update” that will let Google Assistant stream short news stories based on your interests, location, history and preferences, as well as the top news stories.

“Your News Update” is now available in English in the US, and will expand internationally next year, the company said in a statement.

You can find “Your News Update” in Google Assistant settings — under the You tab, navigate to News and switch your News playlist format. Then say “Hey Google, play me the news” or add news to one of your “Assistant Routines”.

voice Assistant by Google
“Ok Google”, your voice Assistant. Pixabay

In 2016, the company launched initial “News on Assistant” product, with news briefings from top publishers.

“Collaborations with publishers from around the world over nearly two years have helped us imagine the future of audio news, and have reinforced the importance of building a healthy ecosystem for both listeners and publishers,” said Liz Gannes, Product Manager, News.

Also Read: Apple Brings iOS 13.2.3 Fixing Variety of Weird Bugs

Google has licensed audio from a variety of news sources, including ABC, Cheddar, The Associated Press, CNN, Fox News Radio, PBS, Reuters, WYNC, and some local radio stations.

The company said once “Your News Update” goes live, users will be able to choose between either the new audio news system or the original one. (IANS)