There might be more than Google's smart speaker listening to your private conversations and it's upsetting on every level. Google contractors can listen to your private conversations as well, claims a new report. Reports about Google subcontractors eavesdropping on your private conversation with Google Assistant comes only weeks after Bloomberg first reported Amazon's practice to let its workers listen to (at least some of) what you have to say to its Alexa voice assistant, aiming to improve its voice recognition.
Belgian broadcaster VRT explains how Google contractors end up listening to your private Google Home recordings. Although Google doesn't allow anyone to listen to your conversations live, there might be a delay as Google later sends audio clips to subcontractors to review. And in what could be even more shocking, Google Home Terms of Service don't mention anything about letting human contractors access your Google Home recordings, further lacking transparency.
VRT could access some of Google Home audio recordings and figure out the addresses of many Dutch and Belgian Google Home users. Shockingly, some Google Home users hadn’t even triggered the device's listening mode with the help of "Hey Google" or "OK Google" command. Responsible for this revelation is a former subcontractor with Google whose job was to transcribe Google Home audio files in order to improve its speech recognition capabilities.
Their main job was to annotate Google Home audio recordings and presume the identity and age of the speaker. This way, Google subcontractors may have heard just about everything right from your personal information to your bedroom activities, and there's absolutely no way to know what specific type of information they have heard. Of course, this may not be limited to Dutch and Belgian users, since the report has it that they had recordings from all over the world.
Meanwhile, this is what the company has to say:
"We work with language experts around the world to improve speech technology by making transcripts from a small number of audio clips. This work is crucial for the development of technology that makes products such as the Google Assistant possible. Language experts judge only about 0.2% of all audio clips that are not linked to personally identifiable information."
"We have recently learned that one of these language experts may have violated our data security policy by leaking Dutch-language audio clips. We are actively investigating this and when we find a breach of our policy, we will take action quickly, up to and including the termination of our agreement with the partner."