Surprise: People are listening to your Google Assistant queries

Surprise: People are listening to your Google Assistant queries

"Most recordings made via Google Home smart speakers are very clear".

A hot potato: Algorithms have vastly improved human voice recognition but it seems the technology still needs a lot of real human help to train itself, even if it comes at the cost of privacy.

Google Assistant is used on Google Home smart speakers, Android devices, and Chromebooks. Contractors review the script of the recorded query and confirm it matches with the voice recording. Given that VRT NWS was able to confront people with their own recordings, the reality would appear to be quite different.

The Google contractor says the job entails listening to the recordings to check the accuracy of the assistant listening to users speaking in Dutch. Some of these recordings contained highly sensitive and private information.

And while Google doesn't record until users say phrases like "Hey, Google" or "OK, Google", the devices sometimes mishear other words or phrases and record conversations they aren't meant to listen in on. If the audio recorded by Google was secure and protected, a Dutch news site wouldn't have gained access to a treasure trove of what many would consider to be extremely sensitive data. The what of this story is just as interesting as the how, though, as VRT NWS says that employees from one of Google's subcontractors allowed them to listen to more than 1,000 clips recorded by Google Assistant provided for the contractors to transcribe. "Our Security and Privacy Response teams have been activated on this issue, are investigating, and we will take action". This work is crucial for the development of technology that makes products such as the Google Assistant possible. Recordings made with Google Assistant, the smartphone app, are of telephone quality.

While the recordings are not associated with user accounts, people often share personal information like names and addresses that can reveal their identities.

Now playing: Watch this: A faster Google Assistant will help you decide what to. Employees are tasked with precisely transcribing voice commands given, meaning they need to double-check spellings and the like - in turn, forcing them to look up the people and locations they are listening to.

Google also claims that their language experts only judge about 0.2 percent of all audio fragments and that those aren't linked to any personal or identifiable information.

Google told Ars that the storing of voice and audio activity is set to "off" by default when people create Google accounts.

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