Google says its employees listen to private audio recordings of customers from Google Home smart speakers — to improve its voice recognition technology.


The company made the disclosure on Thursday after some of its Dutch language recordings were leaked and obtained by VRT, a national public service broadcaster in Belgium.

In a press statement released on Friday, Google said it employs language experts to analyze and transcribe snippets of users’ recordings to aid the development of its artificial intelligence system.

According to the firm, the results from this AI-oriented analysis are then deployed into its Google Home smart speakers and the production of Android OS-based smartphones.


“We partner with language experts around the world to improve speech technology by transcribing a small set of queries. This work is critical to developing technology that powers products like the Google Assistant,” the company said.

“Language experts only review around 0.2% of all audio snippets, and these snippets are not associated with user accounts as part of the review process.

“Google Assistant begins recording when prompted by the wake-up phrase ‘OK, Google’. Google’s contractors are then given access to these recordings to better understand language patterns and accents”.


A Google spokesperson had claimed that the recordings were stripped of all information that precisely identifies users but VRT found they had identifiable information — including addresses and other personal information.

“This is a critical part of the process of building speech technology. Our security and privacy response teams have been activated on this issue, are investigating, and we will take action,” Google said.

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