Human Operators Are Listening to Your Private Google Assistant Recordings

BY Mahit Huilgol

Published 11 Jul 2019

I always wondered if a real person was listening to Google Assistant or SIRI recordings. Well, the answer now stares me in my face. A Belgian based broadcaster has revealed what happens behind the scenes of Google’s Assistant voice transcription work. The broadcaster sourced the news from three anonymous sources and also listened to 1000 human recordings while doing so.

It is learned that Google employs contractors to transcribe audio so as to improve its accuracy. Sadly though, the recordings can be traced back to the Android user via private details. Apparently, the folks at VRT were able to contact some of the people by using the addresses and contact details included in the recordings.

The recordings include private discussions including love, children, health and other matters. The report also mentions that they heard the voice of a distressed woman. It is no secret that Google is collecting user data to better its services. In fact, most of the tech companies do so. Usually, the data is batched with an ID and then sent for analysis, this way individual recordings cannot be traced back to the owner. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case with Google’s Voice Assistant recordings.

Things keep getting worse, the report also says that some audio recordings were activated without the user saying “Ok Google.” It is quite possible that Google Assistant might have been accidentally activated in these cases. Google has openly accepted that it employs language experts to transcribe a small percentage of recordings. However, the policies don’t mention anything about revealing user information to the contractors. So the next time you confess your deepest darkest secrets to Google Assistant be aware that there might be a Google contractor listening to your recordings.

[via TheVerge]