Google admits Assistant records you secretly without your knowledge

Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

TL; DR

  • Google officials apparently told a government panel that the assistant secretly records user audio.
  • The company also reiterated that its employees sometimes eavesdrop on Google Assistant conversations.

Google has reportedly admitted that the Google Assistant records the user’s audio even when it is not triggered by the keyword “Ok Google”.

According to India todayAccording to Google sources, Google officials apparently told a government panel in India that its employees were listening to tapes of conversations between users and the Google Assistant. Although this is something that Google has previously accepted, sources also told the post that the company admitted that its AI assistant sometimes records audio on a smartphone or smart speaker even when not summoned by the user.

Google previously claimed that its employees listen to recordings of what users say to the Google Assistant to improve its speech recognition technology for different languages. The company said that only a fraction of the audio is accessible to its employees and that they do not listen to sensitive conversations. However, there is no information on how Google distinguishes between sensitive and general conversations. In addition, in 2019, one of Google’s language revisers had escape confidential audio data to Belgian media.

Related: Google Assistant Guide – Get the Most Out of Your Virtual Assistant

Additionally, Google hasn’t explained why the Assistant records user’s audio when it’s not triggered by a voice command. We know the digital assistant is always listening to its trigger word, just like Amazon’s Alexa, but until now we understood that it only records conversations after hearing “Hey Google” or “OK Google”. If what Google would have admitted is true, it opens up a pandora’s box over privacy concerns.

from google privacy policy says, “Sometimes the assistant will activate when you didn’t expect it to, because it incorrectly detected that you wanted its help (like by a noise that sounds like ‘Hey, Google’). If that happens, just say Hey Google, it wasn’t for you, and the assistant will delete the last thing it sent to Google. There is no wording in the policy regarding other instances of recordings not caused by the wizard.

Commenting on the matter, a member of the Indian panel investigating Google said: “In its terms and conditions, Google makes it clear that audio recordings between users and their Google smart speakers and Google Assistant devices are recorded and stored. But the conditions do not mention that its employees can listen to extracts from these recordings. In addition, Google, in its privacy policy, indicates that it will share personal information outside of Google when it has users’ consent. This is a serious invasion of user privacy.

Another senior official from India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said: “The government is looking into the problem of companies like Google that typically do not delete stored data and keep transcripts until a user manually deletes the information.


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Ethel Nester

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