American technology company Google says its contractors listens to recordings of what people say to artificial intelligence system Google Assistant.
The company admitted that people can review those recordings after some of its Dutch language audio clips were leaked to the public.
Google product manager David Monsees wrote about the leak in a recent blog post. He said the company is investigating their release.
Belgian broadcaster VRT NWS got hold of more than 1,000 Google Assistant recordings. It noted in a story that some recordings contained sensitive personal conversations, as well as information that identified the person speaking.
Google said the recordings do not identify user account information. It added that contractors who listen to the audio are told not to take notes of background conversations.
Google said its contract work force listens to recordings to better understand speech patterns and differences in regional accents. Google’s user terms say the company may use the recordings. They state that Google Assistant “records your voice and audio on Google services to improve speech recognition.”
Monsees wrote that Google works with contractors around the world to study the recordings.
Google’s terms do not exactly say that people examine the recordings. But the user terms do say the company could study them as it improves services or creates new features.
Earlier this year, the Bloomberg financial service reported that Amazon’s Alexa also uses contractors to listen to recordings. Amazon officials confirmed the report.
Google’s recording feature can be disabled, but doing so means Assistant loses some of its technical abilities. Users who turn off the recording feature lose the ability for the Assistant to recognize individual voices and learn their speech patterns.
Google Assistant is available on more than 1 billion devices, including smartphones and smart speakers. It has become more popular in the smart speaker market, but still has fewer users than Amazon.
I'm John Russell.
Words in This Story
contractor – n. a person who is asked to perform work or to provide goods at a set price or by a certain date
artificial intelligence – n. an area of computer science dealing with the creation of intelligent behavior in computers
blog – n. a website that has personal comments of one person
transcribe – v. to make a written copy of (something)
conversation – n. a talk involving two or more people
background – adj. relating to events taking place behind or next to the main object
pattern – n. the repeated way in which something happens or is done
accent – n. a way of speaking of a group of people
feature – n. a quality; the form or appearance of someone or something