Ireland’s data protection regulating body is set to investigate the potential data breach in Google, following the confirmation from the tech superpower that their employees are listening to the recordings taken from their Smart Home speakers.
The Data Protection Commission in Ireland is set to look into the possibility of Google violating the privacy and data protection of users after admitting having linguistics experts listen to “anonymous” recordings taken from their smart speakers.
Google listens to smart home speaker recordings
According to Google, 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.
After Ireland’s data privacy agency was made aware of the reports on Thursday, a spokesperson said that they would be “looking into it.” It is, however, unclear at this point if any Irish customers were affected by the potential violation of consumer privacy.
“We received a breach notification from Google on Thursday evening in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and we are currently assessing the information we have,” Spokesperson for the Commission, Graham Doyle said.
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.
Data breach plagues smart home manufacturers
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.
Google and other tech companies “cannot be trusted”
The announcement of Google’s potential data breach follows the recent report that the majority of Americans do not trust Facebook and Google. The recent poll conducted by McLaughlin and Associate revealed that 76.7% of conservative America does not trust Facebook and Google to be unbiased and to treat everyone equal. The survey asked respondents several questions to understand their perception and their opinions towards Big Tech companies like Facebook, Google, Youtube, and Twitter.
And the results for the overall trustworthiness perception of tech companies isn’t far from the results from conservative respondents. Of all the respondents, around 63.4 percent of them said that Facebook and Google could not be trusted to treat all its users equally.
The results, which also revealed that conservatives also don’t trust Google, came following a crucial “bias” issue that the tech giant is facing. 62.9 percent of conservative respondents saying they do not believe the company treats users equally, while nearly half of the respondents polled in general — 47.9 percent — agreed that Google is untrustworthy.