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Google Admits Listening to 'Some User Conversations' Via Assistant: Report

Google Assistant

Google Assistant

Back in 2019, Google defended its policy that allows employees in the company to hear audio recordings of conversations between users and its Google Assistant software.

Google has reportedly told Indian Standing Committee on Information Technology that its employees listen to “some recordings of conversations" between users and its AI virtual assistant Google Assistant. Sources told India Today that the select audio clips are recorded by Google Assistant via a smartphone or smart speaker even when the user had not triggered the AI by the command “Ok Google." Google Assistant is the artificially intelligent voice assistant that is available on Android smartphones, Android TV-based smart TVs and the Google Home line-up of smart speakers. Typically, OEMs do listen to recorded conversations with their respective AI s(only when triggered) to improve the users’ experience, but the new admission appears to be significant as the software giant acknowledged it in front of Indian officials and lawmakers. Sources further clarified to the publication that the software company does not hear sensitive information. However, it remains unclear as to how the company differentiates between sensitive and non-sensitive information.

The report notes that the panel, headed by Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor, believes that the recording of Google Assistant conversations “is a breach of privacy." The final report will make recommendations to the government based on new admissions. Google’s official support page also highlights that the company “records your voice and audio, plus a few seconds before when you use audio activations." Sometimes, audio might be saved if the device incorrectly detects an activation, like a noise that sounds like “Hey Google," the support page highlights. The company has provided a detailed note on how to manage the storage of audio. But the panel admits that Google should clarify more details in its blog post, India Today reports. The publication further notes that MP Tharoor expressed concerns about the privacy of women users on social media platforms during the meeting.

Back in 2019, Google defended its policy that allows employees in the company to hear audio recordings of conversations between users and its Google Assistant software. Google had said that humans only review a fraction of all the conversations that millions of users have with Assistant globally.

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first published:July 01, 2021, 17:53 IST