Apple and Google suspend listening to audio from Siri and Google Assistant

The revelation that the voice commands given to Google Assistant can be heard by others did not go well. The same goes for the discovery that there is a similar practice with regard to Siri. That’s why Google and Apple decided to suspend access to these recordings, at least until new approaches are developed.


In the case of Google, employees were allowed to listen to and transcribe user recordings to help the voice assistant be more accurate in recognizing commands.

The Apple program had a similar purpose: outsourced employees were hired to listen to a small portion of Siri-related recordings (less than 1% of them, according to Apple) and thus to identify accidental assistant activations or inaccurate responses, for example .

In both cases, the intention to improve the technology seems legitimate. The problem is the side effects, so to speak: many recordings contain sensitive information, there is a possibility that the data will be misused by employees and the terms of use of the two assistants do not make it clear that the conversations can be overheard.

To give an idea of ​​how fragile the control over the recordings seems to be, Google itself recognized that the audios were leaked by an employee who violated the company’s security policies.

In the face of criticism, Google decided to suspend transcriptions in the European Union – the leaked audios are from Belgium and the Netherlands. THE CNBC, the company explained that it made the decision shortly after the complaint came to light and that it is handling the matter with data protection authorities.

Photo by Mack Male / Flickr

The suspension should last at least three months. Google defended the practice by arguing that it transcribes only 0.2% of recordings and that they are not linked to the accounts of the users who generated them. The company is likely to take steps to legitimize the transcripts, such as describing this possibility more clearly in its terms of use.

Apple says it is committed to providing a great experience with Siri and at the same time protecting user privacy, so it announced the global suspension of the use of recordings for a complete review of the program.

One of the measures that Apple should adopt is a software update that will allow the user to consent or not to have their voice commands collected and heard (presumably anonymously) to improve the technology.

Although the two companies made the decision to suspend the programs, the possibility for authorities to thoroughly investigate the complaints is not ruled out. Analysts point out that Google may have violated the GDPR, for example.

With information: TechCrunch, The Next Web.

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