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Google employees can listen to what people say on their home devices. AI | Technology



Google acknowledged that its contractors can listen to recordings of what people say about the company's artificial intelligence system, Google Assistant.

On Thursday, the company acknowledged that people can access the records made by the Assistant, after leaking some of the records in Dutch. Google investigates the violation.

The recordings were received by the Belgian public broadcaster VRT, which scanned over 1000 sound clips and found that 153 were accidentally captured.

Google Assistant starts automatic sound recording at the user's request, usually pronouncing a word or phrase to wake up, for example, “OK, Google.”

Google says that contractors are listening to records to better understand language features and accents, and notes that the records can be used by the company in its user terms. This feature can be disabled, but the assistant loses most of its individual approach.

A company spokesman told Wired that only 0.2% of all recordings are accessible to people for transcription, and that audio files are devoid of identifying user information.

However, the VRT report found records of users who had identifiable information, including the address of one person and other personal information, such as a family discussing their grandchildren by name, another user discussing their love life, and one user telling about how fast baby grows.

In 2017, Google confirmed an error in the dynamics of the Home Mini, allowing the smart device to record users, even if it was not activated by the word wake-up. A Bloomberg report, published earlier this year, also said that Amazon’s voice technology uses contractors to view recordings, which was later confirmed by Amazon.

The records reported by VRT may not comply with the EU General Data Protection Regulations, the rules that came into force in May 2018, which restrict data storage by companies based in the EU or doing business in the EU.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


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