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Friday, 12 July 2019 08:58

I spy: Google employees listen to Home speaker or Assistant recordings Featured

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I spy: Google employees listen to Home speaker or Assistant recordings Image by 1195798 from Pixabay

Google employees are listening to audio files recorded by the company's Home smart speakers and the Google Assistant smartphone app, the Belgian website VRT NWS has reported, adding that it was able to listen to more than a thousand recordings.

The website said that most of the recordings it had heard had been made consciously, but Google also listened to conversations that should not have been recorded, some of which included information that would be regarded as sensitive.

It said the fact that Google would record every word uttered to Google's smart speaker or Assistant was clearly mentioned in the terms and conditions provided by the company.

But what was not mentioned was the fact that Google employees could listen to parts of these recordings.

VRT NWS said it had been able to listen to recordings through the help of a Google sub-contractor who gave its staff a look at the system that collects voice data from Google Assistant.

Thousands of Google employees use the same system to listen to voice recordings.

VRT NWS said among the conversations it listened to were ones where the command "Okay Google" was never given. But if anyone close to the Home speaker said anything that sounded even vaguely like "Okay Google", then the recording was triggered.

"This means that a lot of conversations are recorded unintentionally: bedroom conversations, conversations between parents and their children, but also blazing rows and professional phone calls containing lots of private information," the website said.

"Mistaken recordings can also occur when someone presses the wrong button on his or her phone or unintentionally gives a command."

Contacted for comment, Google pointed readers to this blog post.


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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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