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Very angry after the contractor filters the thousands of recordings of attendees



Illustration: Gizmodo

Just as if you had any hope that Google would not allow humans to list the voice recordings of Google Home and Google Assistant, stop doing so. One of the humans that Google hired to review the voice recordings recently leaked more than a thousand recordings of attendees to a Belgian news organization, which published a story and a video about this week's recordings. Google, of course, is very upset about this.

The flamenco news report is quite important, mainly because you can actually listen to a lot of Google Assistant records of anonymous Flemish people. We have known for a long time that Google employs people to review and transcribe voice recordings to train the technology that makes the voice assistant work. (Amazon and Apple have admitted to doing the same and have previously reported the awkward truth of why humans are still needed for voice assistants to work). Unfortunately for Google, one of these humans sent a lot of these recordings. to VRT News in Belgium, and the news organization. The person who works as a subcontractor for Google also allows journalists to see the software they use to review the recordings. The report confirms what we already knew, but the recordings are a remote reminder that a voice assistant is recorded, stored and inevitably runs the risk of being leaked to hackers, governments or Belgian news organizations.

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Google recovered on Friday with a blog post that frames the leak as a breach of security. The company explained the review process as necessary for its products to work in several languages, although there is the same review process for the English Assistant recordings. Inevitably, the blog reads like a scolding:

We just learned that one of these language reviewers has violated our data security policies by filtering out confidential Dutch audio data. Our security and privacy response teams have been activated on this issue, are investigating and will take action. We are conducting a full review of our safeguards in this space to prevent misbehavior like this from happening again.

It also confirms that about 0.2 percent of all audio files are sent to human reviewers. That seems to be a small number until you remember 1 billion devices that can consult the Google Assistant.

However, the most important thing about this vision of what makes Google Assistant work is the simple fact that many recordings happen by accident. It is assumed that Google Assistant and other voice aids should start recording only after the user says a word or phrase such as "Hey Google". However, the Belgian news report says: "VRT NWS heard more than a thousand excerpts, 153 of which were conversations that should not have been recorded and during which the" OK Google "command clearly did not occur." That means that maybe 10 percent of what Google is recording is something that should not be recorded.

So it is not clear what will happen next. Perhaps some people are a little more cautious about their Google home on their Amazon Echo or Apple HomePod, all of which equates to wiretapping devices according to some privacy experts. This analogy makes more and more sense when we learn how these devices work. A Google home page has microphones that are activated by default and that sometimes record audio without your explicit consent. And then those recordings sent to a subcontractor that could get the recordings to the press. That has already happened.

Another possible result, of course, is that you simply throw your Google Home or your Apple HomePod into the ocean, scream into the clouds and cry to the sand. Maybe this future is not what I wanted or expected, but it is where you have to live.


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