Google denies accusations of spying via Google Assistant, no data kept
Faced with the Indian government, Google admitted that its Assistant spies on users’ conversations without the latter having spoken a voice command. Then, when questioned on the subject, the company backed down by ensuring that any data recorded without a voice command was automatically deleted.
July 2, 2021 update
Asked by our colleagues from Android Authority, Google wanted to respond to the allegations circulating around the espionage perpetrated by its Assistant. In this regard, the firm declares: “As this was a closed-door hearing, we cannot comment on the stories based on anonymous sources”, before “Share all the details that can help you understand how the wizard works, and this should clarify any doubts you may have”.
The spokesperson for the company has indeed provided to the Security Center of Google Assistant, which stipulates that the latter remains in standby time to be activated. “In standby mode, the device processes short audio clips (a few seconds) to detect activation – like when you say Hey Google. If no activation is detected, then these audio snippets will not be sent or saved to Google ”, specifies the company.
Original article from July 1, 2021
Last April, we reported to you that Google Assistant will soon recognize certain voice commands without having to say “OK Google” in the preamble. While this feature certainly marks a breakthrough in technology, it necessarily raises many questions as to how it works and to the ethical limits with which she flirts. If there is no longer a need to activate the device with the usual catchphrase, then that means that the device must be constantly listening, right? The answer is yes, at the risk of recording private conversations.
When asked by the Indian government on this subject, Google had no choice but to admit that its Assistant spies on its users without even having it activated. The firm has revealed in the past that its employees listen to user conversations. However, she quickly justified herself by ensuring “Take a number of precautions during the audio examination” and “Snippets are never associated with a particular user”. Later, the company even went blank by disabling the default voice recording, which is now necessary activate via a specific option.
Google stays tuned at all times
On the other hand, this is the first time that Google has announced that its Assistant is recording conversations without it being activated. Even though the manufacturer claims that its employees do not listen to “Sensitive conversations”, he did not lie on the specific characteristics that allow these conversations to be recognized nor on the methods used to protect the privacy of its users.
Google Assistant finally allows you to program your connected objects by voice
Moreover, this practice is never mentioned in the general conditions of use of the application. The only passage that can approach it is the following: “Occasionally the Assistant will activate when you didn’t want it because it incorrectly detected that you wanted its help (for example, via noise that sounds like ‘OK, Google’). If this happens, just say “OK Google, that wasn’t for you,” and the Assistant will delete the last record it sent to Google. “
Google will spy on you whether you like it or not
But, at no time does Google indicate that the wizard stores records without the user being made aware. During the hearing, the representatives of the firm did not explain the reasons for such a feature. Of course, it seems logical that the smartphone or the connected speaker constantly seeks to detect the pronunciation of a voice command. However, it is not certain that all users accept that their voice is recorded without their consent.
How to protect yourself against data collection
In theory, it is possible at any time to delete all data stored by Google Assistant. To do this, simply go to the Google Home application, then click on My activity. Once the web page is open, all you have to do is select the records you want to delete. However, it is not specified whether these also concern those kept without your knowledge.
In addition, the Google Home, including the Mini model, have been integrating for a few years a button used to mute the microphone of the device. If you do not want to get rid of your speaker, but still prefer to keep your conversations private, then one solution would be to activate the microphone only when you intend to use it. You will lose in practicality what you will gain in confidentiality.
Source: India Today