Google has admitted its contractors listen in on conversations people have with its smart speaker system, Assistant.
The tech giant yesterday said its contractors can access recordings made by the system. It made the admission after the leak of several Dutch language recordings.
Google Assistant starts to record audio when it hears a so-called wake up phrase, such as “OK, Google”.
A spokesperson for the company told Wired magazine employees listen to around 0.2 per cent of recordings. This is to help the software better understand languages, accents, and dialects.
They said they remove identifying information from the audio clips before they are examined.
Belgian broadcaster VRT reviewed more than 1,000 of the leaked audio clips. It found recordings which included sensitive personal information such as one person’s address.
Journalists at the broadcaster also heard a family discussing their grandchildren by name. Another user discussing their love life and another talking about their child.
In a blog post, Google said one of its language reviewers had “violated our data security policies by leaking confidential Dutch audio data”.
“Our security and privacy response teams have been activated on this issue, are investigating, and we will take action.
“We are conducting a full review of our safeguards in this space to prevent misconduct like this from happening again.”
The VRT report raises questions surrounding whether Google Assistant’s recordings comply with European data laws brought in last year.
The laws, which fall under General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), intend to limit how much information companies can hold about people without their consent.
“We hold ourselves to high standards of privacy and security in product development, and hold our partners to these same standards,” Google said.
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