- Google has said that independent contractors are given access to people's Google Assistant recordings.
- These workers are asked to listen to the recordings and transcribe them in order to make the technology better at understanding different languages and accents.
- Amazon has attracted criticism for similar reasons with its Alexa service. Some users found that their personal conversations had been recorded and then forwarded on to friends in error.
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It's not just Amazon's Alexa that is listening in on your commands — a new report from Dutch publication VRT NWS reveals that Google is also keeping an ear on our conversations.
According to VRT NWS, the technology company hires independent contractors around the world to listen to and transcribe audio recordings picked up by Google Assistant in order to improve the technology.
A Google spokesman confirmed this in a statement to Business Insider and said that its language experts transcribe "a small set of queries" – around 0.2% of all audio snippets – and that this work is "critical" to developing technology that powers products such as Google Assistant.
The idea is to make Google Assistant smarter in understanding commands from people who speak in different languages and accents, it said.
A source told VRT NWS that, in one case, he had to process a recording in which a woman was clearly in need. However, employees are not given any guidelines on what to do in these instances, he said.
Google is now taking action against the employee that shared the audio data with VRT NWS. "We are conducting a full review of our safeguards in this space to prevent misconduct like this from happening again," a spokesman said.
Google isn't the only tech company to come under scrutiny for workers listening in on commands. Amazon's Alexa device has drawn criticism for exactly the same reasons. In April, Bloomberg reported that Amazon workers had been listening back to recordings and mocking them online. And in more extreme cases, users reported that their personal conversations had been recorded and then forwarded on to friends in error.
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