Google employs humans to listen to some voice-assistant recordings


Around one in 5,000 recordings are sent to a language expert, it said.

Google Assistant is used on Google Home smart speakers, Android devices, and Chromebooks.

VRT NWS, a news organization run by a public broadcaster in the Flemish region of Belgium, said it "was able to listen to more than a thousand [Google Assistant] recordings" that it received from a Google subcontractor. These include both purposeful and unconscious recordings that can contain sensitive information. If you're not comfortable with the possibility of a stranger listening to an unintentional recording of your most intimate moments, consider saying "goodbye, Google" and either permanently unplugging your Google Home or disabling Google Assistant on your smartphone.

As well as being a disturbing revelation for Google Assistant users, there is also the possibility that the recordings constitute a breach of European GDPR privacy rules.

After facing widespread criticism for eavesdropping on users' conversations via its Assistant to improve 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 publication also released a video report and says that out of the thousand excerpts they listened to, 153 had been recorded by mistake, meaning that the "Okay Google" command was not issued.

Google responded to the VRT story in a blog post today.

The language experts review and transcribe a small set of queries to help Google better understand those languages.

Google Assistant is the most accurate voice assistant on the market, beating out Samsung's Bixby, Amazon's Alexa and Apple's Siri. Google's Home speakers have been caught sending audio clips of their users back to Google to improve its speech recognition software.

Google's terms don't explicitly say that people review the recordings, but do state that data could be analysed as the company updates services or create new features.

Now playing: Watch this: A faster Google Assistant will help you decide what to. Language experts judge only about 0.2% of all audio clips that are not linked to personally identifiable information. The hired contractors are also instructed to only transcribe bits of the voice recording that's directed to the Google Assistant, and not background conversations or other noises.

You may well have suspected it, but now Google has confirmed it - contractors for the company are able to listen to what you say to Google Assistant.

But sometimes, the human reviewers end up listening to snippets of private conversations-whether they were made via a voice command or accidentally picked up by the Google Home device.