Technology giant Google has admitted that it listens to the voice recordings to users talking to its AI-based digital assistant: Google Assistant. The company revealed this only after its Dutch language recordings were leaked by Belgian public broadcaster VRT.
The report in VRT said, “Most of these recordings were made consciously, but Google also listens to conversations that should never have been recorded, some of which contain sensitive information.”
In a company blog post, Google’s product manager of Search, David Monees admitted that the technology giant’s language experts globally listen to users’ recordings. This enables the company to better understand language and enhances the development of its speech technology.
According to the blog post, “These language experts review and transcribe a small set of queries to help us better understand those languages. This is a critical part of the process of building speech technology, and is necessary to create products like the Google Assistant.”
But then, the company has maintained that only 0.2% of all the recordings are heard by the language experts. Google has also added that these clippings are anonymous and they are not linked to any user’s personal account. So, the user’s personal information remains safe. The post by the company also mentions that no background noise is transcribed by language experts at Google so that the privacy of the users is maintained.
However, the report in VRT has another story to tell. It says that among over 1,000 Assistant recordings from smartphones and home speakers, 153 were recorded accidentally and some of them even revealed the personal information of the users. One of the recordings is said to have the user’s address, and the other had names of grandchildren.
Google Assistant can be activated by saying “OK, Google” to your Android smartphone. After users say this, the recording starts. Google has admitted in its blog post that there are times when the digital assistant gets triggered by something other than “OK Google” command and starts recording. However, this is said to only happen when there is a lot of background noise.
We should mention that this is not the first case of such a thing happening. Earlier this year, Amazon admitted that its employees listened to an “extremely small sample” of Alexa voice recording that was captured via Echo devices. This helped in training its speech recognition and language understanding to become better. Amazon had to admit this after a Bloomberg report said that thousands of employees at Amazon listen to voice recordings that were captured by Echo devices.