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Google has come under fire for admitting that its employees listen to some conversations between Google Assistant and users. The company’s representatives revealed this information in front of Indian officials during a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology meeting.
What many people don’t know is that Google employees have been listening to these recordings since the Assistant was first released back in 2016. This comes as yet another blow to the company, following a string of privacy-related issues that include recording user data without their consent and sharing it with third parties without permission from the user or oversight from regulators.
But while it is well-known that Google listens to recordings to improve speech recognition technology for different languages, the company told Indian lawmakers only one percent of all conversations are listened to by human reviewers. The company likens those snippets of audio with children’s crying or ambient sounds as opposed to someone talking about sensitive topics like health, finances, or crime.
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While Google previously said there are no humans reading Google Assistant transcripts, at least two human reviewers were fired after manually reviewing an audio clip containing sensitive personal health information about one individual.
According to Google, employees listen to a small number of recordings when users use the hot phrase OK Google. This disclosure was made in front of Indian officials for the first time on Tuesday. An additional panel member said: “Google clearly states that audio recordings are recorded and stored with its terms & conditions, but does not mention that its employees can listen to excerpts from these recordings.”
Google explanation on Employees Listen to Some Conversations with Google Assistant:
Google answered this report and explained what it does when they detect an unwanted recording. In a statement to Android Authority, Google said, “Google Assistant is designed to be always attentive and not save or transmit data in the absence of a “wake word” like Google or Hey. If there is no activation detected, like when you say “Hey Google” but nothing happens, Google’s device does not record this audio snippet or send it to Google. Even if a wake word is uttered by mistake and nothing else follows, it will remain unheard.”