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Google Defends Employing Humans to Listen to Some Voice-Assistant Recordings

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Contractors employed by Google listen to recordings of conversations customers have with their Google voice-activated devices, the search giant said Thursday, adding to a string of privacy concerns about technology companies’ data collection practices. Google said contractors review a small percentage of the recordings made by customers through Google Assistant devices, such as Google Home and phones using Android software. The disclosure follows a report from a Belgian news site that obtained samples of the recordings.

Though Google said just two-tenths of a percent of recordings are used for human review, it also disclosed that customers may occasionally be recorded even when they aren’t using Assistant.

Human review of the recordings is necessary to improve the software’s understanding of various languages, Google said in a blog post.

“Language experts review and transcribe a small set of queries to help us better understand those languages,” wrote Google product manager David Monsees. “This is a critical part of the process of building speech technology.”

How and why voice-reliant devices record customer queries has been a hot-button issue this year. Amazon, for instant, records and retains conversations on its Alexa devices, and it employs humans to review some of them. The company is facing several lawsuits from customers who say they didn’t consent to having their voices or those of minors recorded.

(Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Google said that the recordings obtained by Belgian site VRT NWS were a breach of privacy and that it is investigating. “We are conducting a full review of our safeguards in this space to prevent misconduct like this from happening again,” said Monsees.

The latest disclosure from Google highlights how human reviewers are often at the heart of what many tech firms say are automated processes. Thousands of humans, as well as software, review content on Facebook, YouTube and other social media sites to ensure that they are appropriate.

© The Washington Post 2019

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LG Rainbow flagship now rumored to be on hold indefinitely

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It seems that LG just can’t catch a break. Despite finally showing some positive numbers for its mobile business after years of being in the red, the company has been reportedly rumored to be winding down its smartphone projects. First was the supposed communication about LG closing up its mobile business later this year, followed by rumors of the LG … Continue reading

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Motorola Wear OS smartwatch could run on Snapdragon Wear 4100

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There was quite a buzz recently about Motorola launching three new smartwatches this year after being absent in that market for so long. Granted, it is more likely to be made by a different manufacturer that simply licensed the Moto trademark but, for buyers, the distinction is unlikely to make a difference. That, however, might not actually be the end … Continue reading

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Hershey’s ‘most extreme’ Reese’s peanut butter cups ditch the chocolate

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Do you like to have some peanut butter with your peanut butter? If so, Hershey’s newly announced limited-edition Reese’s peanut butter cup treat will be right up your alley. The new product — which it calls the Ultimate Peanut Butter Lovers Cups — ditches the chocolate shell and replaces it with a peanut butter-flavored coating over the peanut butter innards. … Continue reading

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