Recordings made with Google Assistant, the smartphone app, are of telephone quality.
Google Assistant is used on Google Home smart speakers, Android devices, and Chromebooks.
The Belgian journos wrote yesterday: "In these recordings we could clearly hear addresses and other sensitive information".
The reporters even played back some of the recordings for the people who had made them. Contractors review the script of the recorded query and confirm it matches with the voice recording.More news: Hamilton aiming to bounce back by finding Silverstone 'sweet spot'
It shouldn't be news to anyone that Google stores your recordings; this is in Google's terms and conditions, and it's how the voice assistant improves. Given that VRT NWS was able to confront people with their own recordings, the reality would appear to be quite different. According to Wired, experts say Google is violating European Union privacy rules, which protect sensitive data like medical information and require transparency about how personal data is collected and processed. Monsees warned the leaker that "Security and Privacy Response teams have been activated on the issue, are investigating, and ...will take action". "We are conducting a full review of our safeguards in this space to prevent misconduct like this from happening again".
Although user information is de-linked from the audio excerpts to make them anonymous, the recordings themselves make it easy to know someone's identity, who can also be traced through their address or company name that the subcontractors look up on Google or Facebook.
According to the report, Google acknowledged that it works with subcontractors to transcribe conversations, which is meant to improve its speech technology (speech recognition automatically generates scripts, and the subcontractor then double checks for accuracy, correcting where necessary). "These language experts review and transcribe a small set of queries to help us better understand those languages".
A Sony speaker that features Google Assistant.
We asked Google today if its internal employees also listen to the recordings.More news: Millie Bobby Brown joins Salma Hayek and Angelina Jolie in 'The Eternals'
Google Assistant is available on more than 1 billion devices, including smartphones and smart speakers.
Some of these conversations were not directed at Assistant and happened either as background noise or as a mistaken recording when Assistant thought it was being spoken to, but wasn't. Google uses these transcriptions to make Google Assistant smarter.
When setting up a Google account, the option for voice and audio activity is set to off by default.More news: Ryan Murphy reveals cast of American Horror Story