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Google admits workers listen to some smart device recordings

Google admits workers listen to some smart device recordings

Google has confirmed a Belgian news media report that its workers were listening to some audio recordings captured by its smart devices.

The company said in a blog post on Thursday that it uses contractors to study some recordings to learn how it can make its technology “work for a wide variety of languages, accents and dialects.”

VRT NWS published an investigation on Wednesday in which the Belgian broadcaster gained access to a secure system storing audio recordings from Google Home devices and from the Google Assistant app. The outlet found many recordings that had been captured inadvertently, without users activating their devices.

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In its response on Thursday, Google vowed to investigate the leak of users’ audio recordings.
“Our Security and Privacy Response teams have been activated on this issue, are investigating, and we will take action,” David Monsees, the product manager for search at Google, wrote in the blog post. “We are conducting a full review of our safeguards in this space to prevent misconduct like this from happening again.”

But Monsees said that hiring language experts to study the recordings is necessary for improving Google’s products and making them work for a variety of languages.

He also emphasized that there are multiple safeguards throughout the process. Audio recordings are not tagged to users’ accounts in Google’s review system.

But VRT was able to link some audio snippets to the users who were captured on the recordings because they included sensitive, identifiable information.

Google said that users can visit their privacy settings page to prevent the company from storing any audio.

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