Google admits that employees listen to some 'Ok Google' queries
We previously reported that a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology had summoned executives of Silicon Valley giants Facebook and Google to discuss the safety of citizens and their rights online. In that meeting which happened yesterday, Google representatives reportedly admitted that the company's employees listen in on some "Ok Google" queries and customers' subsequent confidential conversations. Here are more details.
After initial reluctance, Google, Facebook deposed before Parliamentary panel yesterday
The Parliamentary committee chaired by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor called for an in-person meeting with Google and Facebook executives on June 29. After initial reluctance, the companies deposed before the panel yesterday. Anonymous sources familiar with the matter told India today that Google's employees listen in on customer interactions with the Assistant.
Google claims it listens in even when Assistant isn't summoned
India Today reported that when questioned by BJP MP Nishikant Dubey elected from Jharkhand's Godda seat, Google admitted that users' conversations were recorded, sometimes even when the virtual assistant had not been summoned using the "Ok Google!" hotword. Evidently, the committee members view this as a serious breach of privacy and will make recommendations to the government on it in the final report.
Google added that it doesn't hear 'sensitive information'
Panel member links Google's admission to aggressive targeted advertising
A member of the panel reportedly said, "The admission by Google explains why lakhs of users right after asking Google Assistant about hotels in a city start getting messages on their accounts on different platforms about deals and offers." We believe that far worse consequences of letting Big Tech listen in on private conversations could include identity theft, data theft, and even financial fraud.
2019 report found Amazon also listened in on Alexa users
Apple's voice assistant also records interactions to 'improve speech recognition'
A report also found that Apple executives listen in on customer interactions with the Siri voice assistant. The company claims that these recordings are not associated with Apple IDs and are collected to improve the speech recognition of the underlying systems.