Google Home Shares Recordings With Outside Contractors

Google Home smart speakers sometimes transmits people's conversations to Google even when they don't intend to interact with the devices, the company admitted this week.

What's more, Google sometimes sends portions of those conversations to outside contractors who are tasked with analyzing language patterns.

News about Google Home's data sharing came to light this week, when the Dutch radio broadcaster VRT said it had listened to more than 1,000 excerpts of conversations -- including 153 where participants hadn't given the “Okay, Google” command that signals an intent to interact with the speaker. An outside contractor shared the voice snippets with the newspaper, in apparent violation of Google's policies.

“Our Security and Privacy Response teams have been activated on this issue, are investigating, and we will take action,” Google's David Monsees, product manager for search, said Thursday in a blog post.

He added that language experts only review 0.2% of audio snippets, and that the data isn't associated with user accounts.

Monsees said the Google Assistant is only supposed to send audio to the company if it hears a command like, “Hey Google,” or someone has physically activated the Assistant.

But he added that background noise can trigger audio transmissions, if the company's software misinterprets that noise as a command.

Google reportedly notified the Irish Data Protection Commissioner about the data breach. That organization is currently investigating numerous Silicon Valley companies over their data practices.

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