When Amazon introduced its first echo voice speaker in the late autumn of 2014, the response was the same everywhere: who asks such a bug in the living room? Nevertheless, the smart speakers became extremely popular. More than 100 million devices are to be used worldwide. But the privacy doubts could not be completely eliminated, despite all the protestations of the manufacturers.
Right, as it turned out again. According to a report by the Belgian broadcaster VRT, Google contract staff members are listening to a series of conversations that lead users to their Google Assistant. The broadcaster was leaked more than 1000 conversations, which should be transcribed by contract workers.
The goal: By handwriting the conversations, the quality of automatic speech recognition can be improved. This is useful for better understanding individual speech patterns (necessary for recognizing different voices) and regional accents. The practice is common in the industry: similar had the US news agency "Bloomberg" revealed a few months ago at Amazon.
Some recordings made by mistake
Most of the now leaked audio recordings are the usual communication with language assistants. This can be seen from the fact that the sentences begin with the phrase "Okay, Google" – with this codeword you start the Google Assistant. This was not the case with 153 conversations. The fact that they were still recorded and uploaded to the cloud is because the assistant mistakenly understood the activation phrase "Okay, Google," even though they said something similar The Assistant was also accidentally started on the smartphone, without the users had noticed the visual and audible signals.
Google contract workers said they overheard some intimate conversations, including bed conversations, parent-child dialogues, and medical information. According to the report, a staff member even witnessed a situation of domestic violence.
Google has already commented
Google itself has expressed itself in the meantime in a blog entry to the thing. The corporation confirms that 0.2 percent of all records – ie every 500th recording – are manually evaluated by humans. This process is completely anonymous, the staff could assign the images of any individual person, it is said.
It is not that easy in practice, but apparently not. Because a reporter of the Belgian station managed to identify several users on the basis of the sound snippets and to visit, because they called in personal information such as addresses.
Privacy advocates now criticize that Google does not make its users aware of this practice. Although there are indications in the Google Assistant Terms of Service that the voice recordings are analyzed for quality improvement. Nowhere is there any talk of this happening through humans.
This is how you delete your recordings
Google has announced that it will investigate the case internally. However, it is not primarily about the practice of recording and analyzing data, but about the fact that the service provider has passed on sensitive information to a medium.
If you want to listen to his voice recordings recorded by Google, go to this page. The recordings can be deleted directly in the Google Account under the heading "Data & Personalization" under "My Activities", then on "Voice and Audio Activities".
If you want to know how to delete all images of Amazon Alexa, read on here.
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