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Science
16 Apr 2019

Here's how tech giants handle data captured by voice assistants

How tech giants handle your voice recordings

From phones to speakers, everything is turning smart thanks to the power of voice recognition and artificial intelligence.

Most tech giants, including Google and Apple, offer AI-powered voice assistants to help users automate day-to-day activities.

But, here's the thing, the same companies also fetch our voice recordings (what we say to these assistants) to improve their products.

Let's see how they handle this data.

In context

How tech giants handle your voice recordings
Amazon annotates recordings, gets them reviewed

Amazon

Amazon annotates recordings, gets them reviewed

Speaking to VentureBeat, an Amazon spokesperson confirmed they annotate a small number of recordings to improve Alexa's speech recognition and make the assistant better at understanding/answering queries.

The company gets the recordings reviewed by contractors for feature development but emphasizes that all of that happens in 'high confidentiality' with strict safeguards in place and without revealing personally-identifying information (only first name, device serial number).

Apple

Apple also gets recordings reviewed

Apple also gets a small number of Siri recordings reviewed by graders.

The data is encrypted and anonymized with random identifiers, which allows the graders to rate the quality of Siri's response and mark them with labels contributing to the assistant's development.

The labeled recordings are fed into Apple's recognition system, which ultimately ensures quality assurance and helps Siri better understand the user's voice.

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It may use recordings for years

Apple says "voice recordings are saved for a six-month period so that the recognition system can utilize them to better understand user's voice." However, it notes that a small subset of this data, without identifiers, may be used for improving developing Siri beyond six months.

How Google treats Assistant data

Google

How Google treats Assistant data

A Google spokesperson told VentureBeat it employs "a wide range of techniques to protect user privacy" while transcribing Google Assistant data for training its speech recognition system.

The representative emphasized that the transcription process is automated and the analyzed audio data isn't associated with any personal information.

And, if the company chooses to use a third-party reviewer, only text data is shared.

Microsoft

Samsung, Microsoft's data handling process is not clear

As Microsoft's privacy page notes, the Redmond giant collects voice interactions with Cortana to enhance the voice assistant's ability to recognize individual speech patterns and respond.

However, the page doesn't detail how the company protects/anonymizes this data and if it is labeled by employees or third-party reviewers for development purposes.

Same is the case for Samsung which collects data from its Bixby voice assistant.

Samsung's data goes to a third party service

Notably, some of the voice data collected by Samsung may go to an unspecified third party service that provides speech recognition service. It is not exactly clear how the service in question stores and handles this data.

Ask NewsBytes
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Most asked questions

Is this data safe?

How our recordings can improve Google Assistant?

Can we stop such collection?

Is Samsung Bixby better than Google Assistant?

More questions

Is this data safe?

Asked 2019-04-16 20:29:58 by Vivaan Trivedi

Answered by NewsBytes

All companies follow different approaches to protect user data from being identified and abused.

How our recordings can improve Google Assistant?

Asked 2019-04-16 20:29:58 by Harini Balasubramanium

Answered by NewsBytes

User recordings can improve Assistant's listening and responding capabilities.

Can we stop such collection?

Asked 2019-04-16 20:29:58 by Arjun Venkatesan

Answered by NewsBytes

Yes, Apple, Google, and Amazon all allow prevention of data collection. You can even delete your previous recordings.

Is Samsung Bixby better than Google Assistant?

Asked 2019-04-16 20:29:58 by Muhammad Rangan

Answered by NewsBytes

No, Google Assistant makes a much better AI-powered offering for smartphone users.

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