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Who’s Listening When You Talk to Your Google Assistant?

Who’s Listening When You Talk to Your Google Assistant?


On Thursday July 11, 2019, Wired at WIRED wrote:
A Belgian broadcaster obtained recordings of more than 1,000 conversations with Google's automated assistant, some including personal details and medical information.

Google, Amazon, and Apple say their AI-powered virtual assistants make it easier to get things done on smartphones or at home. Last month a journalist with Belgian public broadcaster VRT, contacted the couple bearing a mysterious audio file. To their surprise000 others from a Google contractor who is part of a worldwide workforce paid to review some audio captured by the assistant from devices including smart speakers and security cameras. One recording contained the couple’s address and other information suggesting they are grandparents.

Most recordings reviewed by VRT were intended; users asked for weather information or pornographic videos, for example. WIRED reviewed transcripts of the files shared by VRT, which published a report on its findings Wednesday. In roughly 150 of the recordings, the broadcaster says the assistant appears to have activated incorrectly after mishearing its wake word.

Some of those captured fragments of phone calls and private conversations. Yet the sensitive data in the recordings and instances of Google’s algorithms listening in unbidden make some peopleuncomfortable. Privacy scholars say Google’s practices may breach the European Union privacy rules known as GDPR introduced last year Costa Rica, and India. He showed VRT how he logged into a private version of a Google app called Crowdsource to access recordings assigned to him.

In one case he transcribed a recording in which a woman sounded like she was in distress.

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