Google’s Language Experts Listen to Users’ Private Recordings





The technology superpower Google recently avowed that its employees listen to customers' personal audio recordings on Google Home smart speakers.


For allegedly improving the voice recognition quality, language experts analyze "snippets" of users' recordings.


Those recordings are used to further develop the Google assistant's artificial intelligence system which is used in the Android phones and Google Home smart speakers.


According to sources the company is a statement cited their experts did transcribe a few of the anonymous recordings.


An investigation had been launched after it was found out that some Dutch audio data had been leaked.


Per sources the technology giant also said that in the process of developing technology of its AI products, transcribing a small set of queries is critical for which they collaborate with language experts around the world.


And it was one of these reviewers who allegedly leaked the Dutch audio data hence violating Google's security policies.


Actually, only 0.2% of all audio snippets are reviewed by the language experts, which especially are never associated with user accounts.



The investigation launched by the Security and Privacy Response teams is Soon to reach some result and all possible actions are being taken to deduct all chances of repetition.


Amazon also indulges in similar actions of listening to recordings of customers in relation with Alexa, its voice based assistant, mentioned a report.


Later Amazon admitted to the process and mentioned that the number of recordings was pretty small and imperative to train AI's responses.


There's a special provision for users though. They can always delete their recordings linked to their account by way of the Alexa Companion App.



Amazon Sued Over Illegal Retention of Child Recordings Through Alexa



Amazon is being sued by a Massachusetts woman for unlawfully recording and storing the voices of children with its Alexa-enabled devices; the lawsuit filed in Seattle this week, claims that Amazon is contributing to a massive database by harnessing private details of millions of Americans via voice recordings.
Children, as a matter of fact, don’t fully understand the “potentially invasive uses of big data by a company the size of Amazon” and they “use Alexa without any understanding or warning that Amazon is recording and voice-printing them”, according to the lawsuit.
Criticizing Amazon’s methodologies, the two law firms, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and Keller Lenkner alleged that the company decides to retain the actual voice recordings in spite of having an option to encrypt user voices. According to the complaint filed by these firms on behalf of an anonymous minor, Amazon stores the voices to examine it in the future and deploy the same for commercial profit.
Referencing from the Lawsuit, “It takes no great leap of imagination to be concerned that Amazon is developing voiceprints for millions of children that could allow the company (and potentially governments) to track a child’s use of Alexa-enabled devices in multiple locations and match those uses with a vast level of detail about the child’s life, ranging from private questions they have asked Alexa to the products they have used in their home,
The company is “allowing workers around the world to listen to the voice recordings and creating voiceprints of the users, which can be used to identify them when they speak to other devices in other locations,” the lawsuit reads.
Referenced from the statements given by a spokeswoman to BBC, “Amazon has a longstanding commitment to preserving the trust of our customers and their families, and we have strict measures and protocols in place to protect their security and privacy.”
Commenting on the matter during his conversation with Yahoo Finance,” Travis Lenkner, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, said,
“The legal theory is very straightforward. These kids themselves never consented, if they even could. No one such as a parent ever consented on their behalf,”
“Amazon purports to obtain consent to record individuals who set up an Alexa-enabled device,” the complaint states. “But there is a large group of individuals who do not consent to be recorded when using an Alexa-enabled device and who use Alexa without any understanding or warning that Amazon is recording and voice printing them: children.”
“Every recording that is made of a child, by Amazon through the Alexa software in one of these nine states is ... a per se violation of the privacy laws of those states and carries statutory penalties along with it,”
Delving further into the matter, Lenkar explains “It builds voiceprints of individual users”, “so if a child uses an Alexa device in California, and then uses another one in Washington, Amazon theoretically knows it’s the same person.” The device creates a unique identity for each person based on their voice.”
The fact that Amazon could potentially overwrite the voice recordings and yet chose not to, given that doing so would not hinder the performance of the assistant, further worsens the matter on which the company is expected to provide answers in greater detail very soon.





Amazon's Alexa storing all the voice recordings





Amazon’s Alexa may delete your voice recordings but it keeps the automatically produced transcripts in the company's cloud, according to reports.

According to CNET report, all the voice commands said to the virtual assistant should be deleted from the server, but the company saves all the text logs. 

The company stores all its data on its cloud servers, which could not be deleted by the users. Meanwhile, the company claims that they are working to make the data inaccessible. 

"When a customer deletes a voice recording, we also delete the corresponding text transcript associated with their account from our main Alexa systems and many subsystems, and have work underway to delete it from remaining subsystems," an Amazon spokesperson said in an email.

After revelation of the report, more than a dozen consumer advocacy groups plan to file a complaint against the company with the Federal Trade Commission.

The company is violating federal laws as they are not seeking parental consent before collecting data on children through Echo devices. 

Goa DGP calls Alexa a spy

Goa Director General of Police (DGP), Muktesh Chander, while speaking at a cybersecurity seminar on Thursday, 21 February, warned people from excessive use of Amazon's artificial intelligence assistant Alexa, saying that these assistants are acting like spies and collecting private information, The Indian Express reported.

“And what Alexa does. All the time it is listening. Everything. Every word you are saying, Alexa is listening and passing it on to Google. (Chander then corrects himself and says Amazon)."

Chander, who is also a cybersecurity expert, was delivering a keynote address at a seminar on ‘Cyber Security for Industry’ in Panaji.

“Sounds.pk… PK are Pakistani sites. Why are they giving sounds free of cost?” Chander said, adding that the songs.pk website promotes a “compromised Chinese-made browser” to glean information from a user’s phone. “Has anybody tried downloading this songs.pk? All of a sudden if you are trying on mobile, one thing is bound to come up… UC browser. Have you heard of that? Because UC browser is… a Chinese browser. It is collecting all the information. So there is a hidden agenda,” Chander said.