Google admits workers listen to private audio recordings from Google Home Speakers
After facing great criticism for eavesdropping on users’ conversations by its Assistant to enhance 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.
The reaction came after reports surfaced that third-party contractors working for Google are recording and secretly listening to users’ bed room conversations with the aid of Google Assistant on smartphones, home speakers and safety cameras.
According to Belgian broadcaster VRT NWS, users’ 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 NWS, with the help of a whistleblower, was once able to hear to more than 1,000 excerpts recorded by means of Google Assistant.
In a statement on Thursday, David Monsees, Product Manager, Google Search said the company partners with language experts round the world who understand the nuances and accents of a particular language.
“We have just learned that one of these language reviewers has violated our data security policies by leaking confidential Dutch audio data. Our Security and Privacy Response groups have been activated on this issue, are investigating, and we will take action,” stated Monsees.
The language professionals assessment and transcribe a small set of queries to assist Google better understand these languages.
“This is a critical section of the system of building speech technology, and is crucial to growing products like the Google Assistant,” stated Monsees.
According to him, the language professionals only overview round 0.2 per cent of all audio snippets.
“Audio snippets are no longer related with person debts as phase of the evaluation process, and reviewers are directed not to transcribe history conversations or other noises, and solely to transcribe snippets that are directed to Google.”
In a normal course, Google Assistant sends audio to Google after the device detects the user interacting with the Assistant — for example, with the aid of pronouncing “Ok Google” or with the aid of physically triggering the Google Assistant.
However, the Belgian broadcaster said recordings have been performed no matter the reality that some of Google Home users did no longer even say the wake word, “Ok Google”.
According to Google, it is uncommon that units that have the Google Assistant constructed in may also trip what it calls a “false accept”.
“This capability that there used to be some noise or words in the history that our software interpreted to be the hotword (like “Ok Google”). We have a quantity of protections in region to forestall false accepts from going on in your home,” the business enterprise stressed.
To the horror of users, VRT NWS heard simply everything: private information, bedroom talks, home violence and what now not about Google Assistant customers in Belgium and the Netherlands.
VRT “overheard limitless men looking out for porn, arguments between spouses, and even one case in which a girl seemed to be in an emergency situation”.
What is more worrisome is that the platform that the whistleblower showed to VRT had recordings from all over the world.