Digital Forensics Dispatch

Digital Forensics Blog
by Sensei Enterprises, Inc.

Private Google Assistant Recordings Leaked

July 23, 2019

A blog post from Google has confirmed that recordings from devices enabled with Google Assistants have been leaked online. The data leak raises privacy concerns about the use of virtual assistants, increasingly being integrated into “smart homes” worldwide.

The Google Assistant software comes pre-installed on Google Home, Nest Thermostats and other smart devices. Any recordings obtained from the device are subject to review from Google contractors, which monitor the recordings to assist in developing and improving the speech recognition technology. Google addressed the steps used to protect user data during the review process and stated: “Language experts only review around 0.2 percent of all audio snippets. Audio snippets are not associated with user accounts as part of the review process, and reviewers are directed not to transcribe background conversations or other noises, and only to transcribe snippets that are directed to Google.”

Consumers weary of the audio reviews performed may want to avoid Google Assistant devices altogether with the news that some recordings reviewed by contractors have leaked. A party in possession of the leaked files described the recordings as “bedroom conversations, conversations between parents and their children, but also blazing rows and professional phone calls containing lots of private information.”

The possibility of strangers listening in on your private conversations have some thinking twice about employing this assistant. If data privacy is a concern, it is possible to disable the software within the settings of your specific Google device.

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