Tech

Google admits to listening to private audio recordings from Home smart speakers

Google admits to listening to private audio recordings from Home smart speakers

In a report this week, Belgium public broadcaster VRT NWS revealed that it had been leaked thousands of audio clips recorded by Google Assistant, a virtual AI assistant embedded in Google devices, including its "Home" smart speaker.

The reaction came after reports surfaced that third-party contractors working for Google are recording and secretly listening to users' bedroom conversations via Google Assistant on smartphones, home speakers and security cameras.

According to an anonymous source, "Peter", Google subcontracts a company to transcribe all of these conversations.

In its statement, Google said "This is a critical part of the process of building speech technology, and is necessary to creating products like the Google Assistant" and that the company takes precautions to protect users' identities.

When Bloomberg reported that Amazon's Alexa was using thousands of humans to transcribe and annotate recordings, many made without the user's knowledge, Google gloated that its superior Home Assistant anonymized and distorted audio snippets.

While Google emphasizes that it anonymizes the snippets, replacing the user's name with a serial number, Belgian broadcaster VRT found that matching a voice snippet with its owner was not very hard, given the ample supply of addresses and sensitive information found on the recordings they were given. For those unaware, users with Google Assistant on their phones and smart speakers have to speak "Ok, Google" to start a conversation with the AI-powered virtual assistant.

This leads to unintended recordings. The transcribers are said to write down "every cough and audible comma", as well as attempt to identify whether a man, a woman, or a child is the one speaking.

More news: Karnataka minister Nagesh resigns withdraws support

Google isn't the only one accused of violating their users' privacy.

"This means that there was some noise or words in the background that our software interpreted to be the hotword (like "Ok Google")".

Google states that it has a number of protections in place to prevent false accepts from occurring.

The report is claiming that Google employees are not just listening to a small percentage of enquiries (0.2%) but is then using subcontractors to transcribe them in a bid to improve their local voice assistant technology. Moreover, transcribers are instructed "not to transcribe background conversations or other noises, and only to transcribe snippets that are directed to Google".

Not all is as bad as it looks though.

When setting up a Google account, the option for voice and audio activity is set to off by default. They are not interested in what you are saying, but the way you are saying it. Google's computer system consists of smart, self-learning algorithms.

"We hold ourselves to high standards of privacy and security in product development, and hold our partners to these same standards", Google said. "We are conducting a full review of our safeguards in this space to prevent misconduct like this from happening again", a spokesman said. "We also provide you with tools to manage and control the data stored in your account".


  • Amazon Prime Day 2019: Start Date, Deals & Details

    Amazon Prime Day 2019: Start Date, Deals & Details

    First-time Prime Now users can save $15 off their first Prime Now order by using coupon code "15PRIMENOW" at checkout. That way you won't cave to the temptation and buy a bunch of stuff you don't need just because it's labeled a deal.
    ASAP Rocky's Appeal Denied By Swedish Supreme Court

    ASAP Rocky's Appeal Denied By Swedish Supreme Court

    The US consulate believes this is because guards did not want them to see conditions inside the facility, the sources said. TMZ reports that he is being held for two weeks "while prosecutors decide whether to charge him for aggravated assault".
    Spotify's fast and simple Lite app debuts in 36 markets

    Spotify's fast and simple Lite app debuts in 36 markets

    As of March 2019, the music platform reported 217 million users with 46 percent of them being paid subscribers (100 million). Spotify is looking to bank on the same with Spotify Lite , which is a toned-down version of the standard Android app.
  • Microsoft adds option to make Windows 10 devices passwordless

    Microsoft adds option to make Windows 10 devices passwordless

    Microsoft also says that a PIN code is far more secure than a password , even if it seems more simple to use a four-digit code. Users will see a calendar flyout where they can pick their desired date and set a time and location more quickly this way.
    Housewares, Home To Be Featured In Target's Deal Days Promotion

    Housewares, Home To Be Featured In Target's Deal Days Promotion

    Amazon is releasing 14 new Prime Video titles over 14 days in English, Hindi and 7 regional languages leading up to Prime Day. Unlike most everyday sales, Prime Day includes a few different types of deals to be aware of before the event rolls around.
    Instagram's New Anti-Bullying Tools Let You Shadow Ban Rude Followers

    Instagram's New Anti-Bullying Tools Let You Shadow Ban Rude Followers

    The second feature, that aims at empowering the victims of bullying is the ability to "restrict" unwanted attention. The AI-powered Rethink tool will flag comments that could be considered offensive before they are posted.
  • Nintendo announces the Switch Lite, coming this September for $199

    Nintendo announces the Switch Lite, coming this September for $199

    Pokemon fans can pick up the Pokemon Sword and Shield Zacian and Zamazenta Edition of the Nintendo Switch Lite system this fall. Nintendo notes that there will be support for all existing Switch titles, although some games will have restrictions.
    Governor discusses storm preparations ahead of heavy rain system

    Governor discusses storm preparations ahead of heavy rain system

    A system that moves inland in south central Louisiana would have less time to strengthen over the warm waters of the Gulf. The system could produce a storm surge and heavy rainfall from Louisiana to the upper Texas coast.
    MacBook Air gets price cut as entry MacBook Pro adds Touch Bar

    MacBook Air gets price cut as entry MacBook Pro adds Touch Bar

    Apple is dropping the older non-Retina MacBook Air , and the polarizing 12-inch MacBook that started the war on ports. The newest MacBook Air now ships with a True Tone display - just like its more expensive siblings.
  • France passes law taxing digital giants in defiance of US anger

    France passes law taxing digital giants in defiance of US anger

    Washington considers the planned French tax to be discriminatory against multi-national companies with headquarters in the USA. The levy could affect USA companies including Airbnb and Uber as well as those from China and Europe.
    PSG unhappy after Neymar misses first day of training

    PSG unhappy after Neymar misses first day of training

    Brazil claimed the trophy after a 12-year gap with a 3-1 win over Peru in Sunday's final. But PSG want to keep the 27-year-old at the club this summer despite his wants.
    Coco Gauff’s Wimbledon run ends

    Coco Gauff’s Wimbledon run ends

    Me on the other hand, I'm don't know many years I have left". "And got our pastor doing a sermon series about the Coco factor". And with a chance to play in front of American crowds, expect the excitement for Coco to only get louder.