Outsourced spying: Google admits ‘language experts’ listen to ‘some’ assistant recordings

Google’s smart speakers are recording users when they least expect it, according to temp worker language experts hired by the company to listen to the snippets – which include some of users’ most private moments. Google is able to claim it does not listen to the recordings Google Home devices are constantly generating only because it contracts the job out to temp workers. These “ language experts ,” as they are called, use a collaborative system built by the company to share and analyze sound snippets, assisting Google’s AI assistant in deciphering the nuances of human speech.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 difficult, given the ample supply of addresses and sensitive information found on the recordings they were given. They listened to over 1,000 excerpts supplied by a Dutch contractor and discovered that more than 15 percent of them - 153 recordings in all - were recorded without the user’s knowledge.Also on 'Luxury good' or no privacy at all? Apple & Google duke it out over customers' dataIn one “ accidental ” recording, a woman was in “ definite distress ,” the temp said. Other snippets included sex and pillow talk, fights, and professional phone calls packed with private information. While employees are instructed to treat account numbers and passwords as “ sensitive ,” they’re left to their own devices everywhere else, leading to potential errors in judgment…like leaking to the media, according to Google, which condemned the contractor who spoke to VRT while fiercely defending its own practices.Insisting that Google has safeguards in place to ...Read more

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