As smart devices have become ubiquitous in our lives, people are becoming increasingly concerned about the privacy implications of the technology.
In the past, tech companies like Google have insisted that their smart devices are not a threat to your privacy, but as it becomes more obvious how intrusive this technology can be, they have started to play damage control and are now revealing limited details about the scope of their surveillance.
In a recent statement, Google admitted that they were listening to some of their customers through the Google Home smart speakers, which are always listening, and recording. The company said that they only use .2% of the data that they collect, which is still a lot of data considering how many people have these devices. Also, many Google Home customers are a bit creeped out that the company’s employees are randomly listening in on their private conversations.
“We partner with language experts around the world to improve speech technology by transcribing a small set of queries – this work is critical to developing technology that powers products like the Google Assistant. Language experts only review around 0.2% of all audio snippets, and these snippets are not associated with user accounts as part of the review process,” the statement said.
The company says that a small percentage of the recordings are somehow analyzed to help them improve their voice recognition technology, but they insist that these recordings are entirely anonymous. The statement was made after the company leaked an unspecified amount of audio data.
While Google insists that they only listen to a small amount of data, and are only recording when the customer is making a command to the device, the leaker found that 153 out of 1000 recordings were at random times when the device was set off accidentally. This isn’t an overwhelming number, but it is enough to cause concern.
“We just learned that one of these reviewers has violated our data security policies by leaking confidential Dutch audio data. Our Security and Privacy Response teams have been activated on this issue, are investigating, and we will take action. We are conducting a full review of our safeguards in this space to prevent misconduct like this from happening again,” the statement continued.
There have been similar concerns with Amazon’s Alexa device, which also stores audio recordings of the private lives of customers.
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On the Alexa FAQ page, Amazon openly admits that they use speech recodings to improve their services.
“We use your requests to Alexa to train our speech recognition and natural language understanding systems. The more data we use to train these systems, the better Alexa works, and training Alexa with voice recordings from a diverse range of customers helps ensure Alexa works well for everyone,” the page says.
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