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2-min read

Contractors Secretly Listening to Google Assistant Recordings to Improve Speech Recognition

According to Belgian broadcaster VRT News, 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'.

IANS

Updated:July 11, 2019, 11:56 AM IST
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Contractors Secretly Listening to Google Assistant Recordings to Improve Speech Recognition
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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".

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".

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.

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".

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