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Google Admits Humans Listen To Assistant Audio

Google contractors around the world are listening in to “audio snippets” taken from the company’s digital voice assistant, including private conversations.

A report from the Belgian public broadcaster VRT NWS said Google hires people to listen to the recordings of conversations between users and the Assistant on its Google Home speakers and Android phones, which Google later confirmed in a blog post.

Google said the recordings are analysed to “better understand language differences”.

VRT NWS reporter Tim Verheyden told the Wall Street Journal he had access to over 1,000 audio fragments, and some of the recordings contained audio that wasn’t even directed at the Assistant.

Google said its devices only send audio once it detects users interacting with it, but background noise can trigger “false accepts”.

“This means that there was some noise or words in the background that our software interpreted to be the hotword (like “Ok Google”),” Google product manager David Monsees said.

“We have a number of protections in place to prevent false accepts from occurring in your home.”

Google said the audio snippets were stripped of any association to an individual account, and its use of outside contractors handling user data was disclosed in its Privacy Policy.

The revelation adds further concern around the security of audio recordings collected by tech companies through their digital voice assistants.

Earlier this year it was revealed Amazon’s Alexa devices had been retaining and transcribing audio of its users, including children.

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