Google Revises Policy Asking Users for Permission to Listen to Their Assistant Recordings

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Google is revising its policy requesting permission from users to listen to their conversations with its automated Assistant, the BBC reported. That means users will be able to opt-in to letting human Google workers listen to their recordings in order to sharpen the company’s tech.

Google said its policy has always been opt-in, but it was not previously sufficiently clear that human beings would be listening to potentially sensitive or private information. The company assures users that their audio data is not automatically recorded.

The issue of Big Tech companies that produce AI-driven voice assistants, including Google, Apple, and Amazon, recording assistant-users’ conversations or questions has joined a broader conversation over the tech industry’s collection and monetization of user data since a Bloomberg story on the topic in April.

The fact that this was an open practice that at least some consumers simply did not understand they were either opting into or automatically participating in points to calls for greater transparency and regulation. Google says it “fell short” of its “high standards” on the issue, but legislation like Europe’s GDPR, CCPA, and legislation in some 10 other US states indicates those standards may be imposed on tech companies by government agencies going forward.

Some privacy advocates argue even opt-in policies are a slippery slope for this kind of privacy concern. Even if one iPhone user tells Apple it can record her conversations with Siri, Apple employees could still end up listening to background conversations without the consent of other users.

Joe Zappa is the Managing Editor of Street Fight. He has spearheaded the newsroom's editorial operations since 2018. Joe is an ad/martech veteran who has covered the space since 2015. You can contact him at [email protected]
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