Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Apple have all used humans (employees and contractors) to listen to and transcribe voice recordings from their virtual assistants or messaging apps. This is done, according to the companies, to improve the quality of speech recognition. But in a climate of privacy sensitivity and suspicion all have been forced to suspend, revamp or discontinue this and change their practices.
In July of this year, Google had to address a report from a Belgian broadcaster about third-party subcontractors being able to access recordings of Google Home device owners, which included enough information to reportedly determine their home addresses. The company explained that the subcontractor “violated our data security policies” and that it was going to “take action . . . . to prevent misconduct like this from happening again.”
Google is now offering further clarification of its audio review process and giving users additional privacy protections. The company also apologized for not letting users know what was going on with their audio data in the past.