Google is always listening.
We’re not kidding.
Google has just admitted to hiring employees to listening to your private conversations.
According to VRT NWS – Google employees are systematically listening to audio files recorded by Google Home smart speakers and the Google Assistant smartphone app. Throughout the world – so also in Belgium and the Netherlands – people at Google listen to these audio files to improve Google’s search engine. VRT NWS was able to listen to more than a thousand recordings. Most of these recordings were made consciously, but Google also listens to conversations that should never have been recorded, some of which contain sensitive information.
Since Google launched its Google Home device in 2016, millions of people have installed one of these smart speaker devices at home or in their office. You can ask it all sorts of trivial questions.
Everything is recorded
Not everyone is aware of the fact that everything you say to your Google smart speakers and your Google Assistant is being recorded and stored. But that is clearly stated in Google’s terms and conditions. And what people are certainly not aware of, simply because Google doesn’t mention it in its terms and conditions, is that Google employees can listen to excerpts from those recordings.
VRT NWS listened to more than a thousand excerpts, 153 of which were conversations that should never have been recorded and during which the command ‘Okay Google’ was clearly not given.
But as soon as someone in the vicinity utters a word that sounds a bit like ’Okay Google’, Google Home starts to record.
This means that a lot of conversations are recorded unintentionally: bedroom conversations, conversations between parents and their children, but also blazing rows and professional phone calls containing lots of private information.
Mistaken recordings can also occur when someone presses the wrong button on his or her phone or unintentionally gives a command.
Watch Fox News’ report on Google employees listening in to your conversations:
Amazon’s Alexa is also listening to its customers when they speak. Not only is Alexa listening when you speak to an Echo smart speaker, an Amazon employee is potentially listening, too.
In April 2019, CNN reported- Amazon (AMZN) employs a global team that transcribes the voice commands captured after the wake word is detected and feeds them back into the software to help improve Alexa’s grasp of human speech so it can respond more efficiently in the future, Bloomberg reports.
Amazon reportedly employs thousands of full-time workers and contractors in several countries, including the United States, Costa Rica and Romania, to listen to as many as 1,000 audio clips in shifts that last up to nine hours. The audio clips they listen to were described as “mundane” and even sometimes “possibly criminal,” including listening to a potential sexual assault.
In response to the story, Amazon confirmed to CNN Business that it hires people to listen to what customers say to Alexa. But Amazon said it takes “security and privacy of our customers’ personal information seriously.” The company said it only annotates an “extremely small number of interactions from a random set of customers.”