19 September 2019
Google has updated the policy to protect your privacy with the Assistant. The change in the policy comes after it got revealed and later confirmed by Google itself in July this year that it subcontracts people to listen to and transcribe Assistant conversations. While announcing the update Google apologized for falling short of its “high standards” in making users understand how their data is used.
Google via a blog post tries to convince that after learning that the language experts are misusing the data it immediately paused this process of human transcription globally to investigate what went wrong. Now, Google is sharing more about how audio recordings work and what changes it has made to better protect your privacy.
First off, Google mentions that it doesn’t retain audio recordings and it has been the case and it will remain unchanged.
Google also mentions that the only time it will store an audio recording if you enable the Voice & Audio Activity (VAA)setting. You can opt-in or opt-out this setting. But you must note that when you opt in the setting you allow Google to help Google Assistant learn your voice better over the time and improve the accuracy for you. You also get the freedom to choose and delete any particular interaction.
But allowing Google to save Assistant conversations will also allow it to let human reviewer listen to your audio snippets to help improve speech technology. “We won’t include your audio in the human review process unless you’ve re-confirmed your VAA setting as on. ”
While explaining the updates in the policy, Google states that audio snippets are never associated with any user accounts. But that hasn’t been the case if we go by the report from Belgian broadcaster VRT NWS which was able to track people after listening to their conversations.
Google also claims that Assistant already immediately deletes any audio data when it realizes it was activated unintentionally. The clarification comes after the same report in which it was stated Google Assistant gets automatically invoked when it hears something similar to the hotword “Hey Google.” Google Assistant was able to listen to and store the private interactions this way.
Soon we’ll also add a way to adjust how sensitive your Google Assistant devices are to prompts like “Hey Google,” giving you more control to reduce unintentional activations.
Google also mentions that it will soon delete the vast majority of audio data associated with your account that’s older than a few months if you have opted into VAA. This new policy will be coming to VAA later this year.