Google Is Listening To Your Smart Home Speaker Recordings To Improve AI

Linguistics experts employed by Google are listening to recordings taken from Google Smart Home speakers, the California-based tech giant admits in a statement.

The increasing popularity of smart home system to automate home functions like locking the door or switching the lights on, among others, has raised concerns among data security experts and privacy advocates.

As Google has already been facing controversies surrounding its ability to secure its users’ data, the Silicon Valley superpower is once again in the center of another data-related issue after it admitted that its employees are listening to recordings from their smart home speakers.

According to the company, linguistics experts are listening to “snippets” of recordings made by users to improve the device’s artificial intelligence for voice recognition technology used in their smart home systems and smartphones. Nonetheless, they clarified that the tapes were randomly snipped and are unnamed.

The smart speaker from Google understands and responds to voice commands given to it, answering queries about the news and weather, as well as, being able to control other internet-connected devices around the home.

In a statement released by the search engine and smart device tycoon, Google reveals that its experts transcribed a small number of anonymous recordings, and an investigation has been launched following the controversial Dutch tape recordings that were leaked in the recent months.

“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,” Google 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.”

The statement continued: “We just learned that one of these reviewers had violated our data security policies by leaking confidential Dutch audio data.”

“Our Security and Privacy Response teams have been activated on this issue, are investigating, and we will take action. We are conducting a full review of our safeguards in this space to prevent misconduct like this from happening again,” they added.

Similarly, earlier reports have tagged a similar system released by Amazon, Alexa, to have been listening to the recordings made by their users in their smart home devices. Amazon admits the process and justified it in the same manner as Google, citing its role in the development and improvement of artificial intelligence.

Privacy campaigners claimed it was a “data protection disaster waiting to happen.”

Privacy concerns are not only limited to smart home speakers. Last week, Chinese smart home devices manufacturer Orvibo suffered a data breach that exposed the exact geolocation of their users through their device’s GPS.

Z6Mag previously reported that more than 2 million records had been compromised due to an unsecured online database that contains sensitive information, including the precise location of the devices manufactured by Orvibo.

The news follows the report published by vpnMentor, with their cybersecurity team led by Noam Rotem and Ran Locar. After posting their discovery, the researchers said that the database is still left open since the time of publication, and the number of data compromised grows by the minute.

Researchers believe that the scope of the breach includes different countries including China, Japan, Thailand, the US, the UK, Mexico, France, Australia, and Brazil as the company claims to have around a million users.

The team behind the discovery has contacted Orvibo since June 16, 2019, but failed to respond to the report, and the database is still open as of the publication of their report.

Shortly after the news broke out, the company spoke up and confirmed that the breach happened as well as said that they have already taken necessary actions to remedy the situation.

“Firstly, we sincerely apologize for this issue,” said a statement posted in the company’s official Twitter, @orvibo. “Once we received the report on July 2nd, ORVIBO’s RD team took immediate action to resolve data leak vulnerability.”

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