Google contractors can listen to your conversations

Google has come under fire after a report showed that employees can listen to private conversations via its Assistant

The Belgian broadcaster got ahold of the recordings after Dutch audio data was leaked by a Google employee. Spotify users in India can now play their favorite tunes by just giving voice commands to Google Assistant. In the case of this latest report, a Belgian contract worker leaked audio to VRT NWS, in violation of Google's data security rules.

It is one of the most popular smart speakers on the market, but if you own a Google Home speaker, you may want to be wary of what you say around it. Google has admitted it gives staff access to some audio recordings from its Google Home smart speakers. Helen Dixon, Ireland's commissioner for data protection, said in an interview last month she has about 20 investigations open into big technology companies, including Twitter, Apple, and Facebook's WhatsApp and Instagram platforms.

A Google spokesperson had claimed that the recordings were stripped of all information that precisely identifies users but VRT found they had identifiable information - including addresses and other personal information. They are, of course, two-way devices, with essentially a chatbot as a middle man. Terms and conditions may detail in fine print that recordings are made and listened to for service improvements, but it still seems an oddly grey area that tech firms seem less inclined to dwell on. The company indicated that these snippets are taken at random and stressed that reviewers "are directed not to transcribe background conversations or other noises, and only to transcribe snippets that are directed to Google".

Google said the transcription process was a necessary part of providing voice assistant technologies to its worldwide users.

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In the recordings it received, VRT said it uncovered several instances where conversations were recorded even though the "Hey Google" prompt wasn't uttered.

Google still denies the fact that they're invading the privacy of its users by stating that they're only using those recordings to help them understand users better and ease the life of its users by providing more improved and updated products.

Google explained that it is necessary to have a team of workers listening to its users' private recordings to improve the quality of its speech-recognition algorithm.

"We have just learned that one of these language reviewers has violated our data security policies by leaking confidential Dutch audio data. We are conducting a full review of our safeguards in this space to prevent misconduct like this from happening again", the company said.

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