Google has recently admitted that it was using its Google Home to record everything that was spoken to it. It even went on record to say that they listened to ‘private conversations‘! They apparently did this so that they could get a better understanding of the faults in its AI with the help of language experts and improve it according to what the user would be suited to.
With the number of privacy breaches happening in recent times, news like these has ceased to become shocking. It was only in April of this year that Bloomberg reported that Amazon workers were listening to people’s conversations with Alexa through their Echo devices. Amazon admitted to the same thing as Google, to improve the AI and help Alexa’s understanding of human speech. But what’s worse in the case of Google is the fact that there has been a leak of information. Let us look at it in a little more detail.
Google Home Recording: Information leak
Google admitted in a blog post after a report by Belgian public broadcaster VRT NWS revealed that the tech behemoth paid contractors, or rather the ‘language experts’ in this case, to listen to all private conversations in order to improve their Home assistant. But it turns out they may also end up listening to sensitive information about the user in question, including precise details about their personal life. With Amazon having to face the music for almost exactly the same thing, Google took a safety step in order to explain its situation.
“We partner with language experts around the world to improve speech technology by transcribing a small set of queries – this work is critical to developing technology that powers products like the Google Assistant. Language experts only review around 0.2% of all audio snippets, and these snippets are not associated with user accounts as part of the review process. ” Google said.
Back in 2017, there was an issue with the Google Home speakers that it was waking up a lot of times in a day and then sending whatever it was recording back to Google. It apparently did so quietly, with only one of the lights blinking on and off while it happened. If something like this persisted, it was bound to happen that one of the ‘reviewers’ listened to the information that he was not even supposed to listen.
What Google also revealed in a statement that some confidential Dutch audio data has been leaked by one of these reviewers. It said that the reviewer had violated its the company’s data security policies and that an investigation was underway to find the source of the leak.
Not a first from Google
While there might have been some surprise when Amazon was accused of privacy breaches because of its Alexa, there is absolutely no surprise when it comes to Google. Google has been accused of this numerous times over the years. Back in 2013, the tech giant was accused of letting its workers read private emails in Gmail so as to provide better ads for the user to look at. It was even accused of tracking the user’s search history patterns. And that’s not all. Google has been accused of quietly recording our voice back in 2015 as well.
With respect to Google Home, one hacker recently claimed that the Google Home Hub was extremely prone to invasion and breaches. With all these devices surrounding us and tracking everything we do, it is hard to not worry about safety and privacy all the time.