Google tells privacy watch dog that it ceased manual Google Assistant audio clip reviews

Google Assistant on a Pixel phone. (Flickr)

Google announced that it has ended a program in Europe that involved contractors listening to private audio recordings after Hamburg authorities ordered it to stop the practice.

The Hamburg data protection authority informed Google that it was in violation of Europe's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) after a Google contractor leaked 1,000 private Google Assistant audio recordings to a Flemish news organization last month.

It is not clear if Google continues the manual review process outside of the European Union, where GDPR law does not apply.

The secret behind AI assistants

Now anyone can join Amazon's Q&A community to write answers for Alexa

September 13th
The crowdsourced site Alexa Answers was previously invite-only.

The secret behind AI assistants

August 18th
To answer the questions you ask Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant, tech companies have employed armies contractors to listen to recordings and take notes.

Microsoft updates privacy policy to clearly state that humans listen to Skype and Cortana audio

August 16th
Motherboard found updated language in privacy statements.

Motherboard speaks with a Microsoft contractor who reviews Skype call audio

August 7th
The interview describes how contractors listen to real call recordings to review and improve Skype's live translation feature

Amazon adds option allowing users to disable human reviews of their Alexa recordings

August 2nd
The move comes after Bloomberg discovered in April the company uses contractors and employees to review audio clips recorded by Alexa

Apple suspends human review of Siri recordings

August 1st
Following a Guardian report that contractors listen to sexual acts and other private encounters, Apple has suspended its manual review program.

Apple uses contractors to review Siri recordings, including those made on accident

July 26th
The Guardian spoke with a contractor who described listening to sexual encounters, patient-doctor conersations, and drug deals.

A Belgian news outlet was able to identify people from their leaked Google Assistant and Home audio recordings

July 11th
Privacy policies tell you a lot about the way large company AIs work, and don't.

Bloomberg talks to Amazon contractors who review Alexa recordings

April 10th
Amazon employs contractors and full-time employees to listen to, transcribe and annotate recordings to improve Alexa's responses

Sections

Surveillance and Privacy

August 16th

AI-enabled technologies produce and rely on vast troves of personal data, most of which is unregulated and vulnerable to theft and misuse.

These technologies include:

  • Facial recognition: It helps users unlock their smartphones. It also helps police in China track criminal suspects and monitor members of the Uyghur ethnic minority.
  • Personalization: It helps consumers make necessary purchases and discover entertainment, but also encourages developers to collect personal data from increasingly far-flung sources.
  • Voice assistants: They help users answer questions, create calendar events, and set alarms. They also record audio accidentally, and until recently relied on human reviewers to listen to private audio to improve their responses.
  • Smart home products: Similar to voice assistants, these products allow users to remotely operate appliances, set temperatures and access security footage. They also collect a vast amount of private information about the home life of their users.