Google Seeks Your Consent Before Listening to Assistant Recordings

The search giant is upgrading its privacy settings on Assistant for its users after it was accused of snooping.

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Tech News
2 min read
Google is changing the privacy settings for users on Assistant.
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Facing the flak for letting contractors record and listen users' conversations via Google Assistant, the tech giant has announced to make some key changes in the way it records and reviews voice recordings.

Google Assistant users will now need to confirm if they want to be part of the Voice & Audio Activity (VAA) process, which stores and reviews conversations.

"To store your audio data, you can opt in to the Voice & Audio Activity (VAA) setting when you set up your Assistant," Google said in a statement late Monday.

Users can view their past interactions with the Assistant, and delete any of these interactions at any time. "If you're an existing Assistant user, you'll have the option to review your VAA setting and confirm your preference before any human review process resumes," said Google.

Google last month stopped listening and transcribing Google Assistant recordings in Europe after Germany's data protection commissioner said the country was investigating reports that third-party contractors listened to users' bedroom talks captured by Google's AI-powered Assistant.

According to Google, audio snippets are never associated with any user accounts and language experts only listen to a small set of queries (around 0.2 per cent of all user audio snippets), only from users with VAA turned on.

Belgian broadcaster VRT NWS, with the help of a whistle blower, was able to listen to more than 1,000 excerpts recorded via Google Assistant. The transcribers heard just everything: personal information, bedroom talks and domestic violence via Google Assistant in Belgium and the Netherlands.

VRT "overheard countless men searching for porn, arguments between spouses, and even one case in which a woman seemed to be in an emergency situation".

Google said there will be additional security protection and additional privacy filters for Google Assistant in the near future.

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