Google said Thursday it uses human experts to listen to clips of customers using the Google Assistant in an effort to improve the technology.
The company said one of its language partners released more than 1,000 recordings of customers using the smart assistant to a Belgian media outlet.
Google said it uses language experts “who understand the nuances and accents of a specific language” to review the audio clips to improve Google Assistant’s ability to interact with customers using the languages. Those experts are sent audio samples to transcribe.
“We just learned that one of these language reviewers has violated our data security policies by leaking confidential Dutch audio data,” the company said in a blog post.
Google made the admission one day after Belgian news outlet VRT reported it received and listened to the sample clips. VRT said some of the clips contained “sensitive information,” including addresses.
VRT said it interviewed some customers who recognized their own voices on the recordings. Some of the recordings were inadvertent and customers were not aware they were being recorded.
The news outlet said it heard at least one recording in which a woman appeared to be in distress, others in which people are fighting and some professional calls with private information.
Google said it has some protections in place to minimize what it calls “false accepts,” when the Google Assistant is accidentally activated by background noise that may sound like “Hey Google,” the phrase used to interact with it.
The company said it is investigating the information leak.
“We hold ourselves to high standards of privacy and security in product development, and hold our partners to these same standards,” the company said.
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