Google admits ‘language experts’ listen to ‘some’ assistant recordings

Outsourced spying: Google admits ‘language experts’ listen to ‘some’ assistant recordings

Google’s smart speakers are recording users when they least expect it, according to temp worker language experts hired by the company to listen to the snippets – which include some of users’ most private moments.

Google is able to claim it does not listen to the recordings Google Home devices are constantly generating only because it contracts the job out to temp workers. These “language experts,” as they are called, use a collaborative system built by the company to share and analyze sound snippets, assisting Google’s AI assistant in deciphering the nuances of human speech.

While Google emphasizes that it anonymizes the snippets, replacing the user’s name with a serial number, Belgian broadcaster VRT found that matching a voice snippet with its owner was not very difficult, given the ample supply of addresses and sensitive information found on the recordings they were given. They listened to over 1,000 excerpts supplied by a Dutch contractor and discovered that more than 15 percent of them – 153 recordings in all – were recorded without the user’s knowledge.

Full story: https://www.rt.com/news/463970-google-home-assistant-eavesdropping/

Facebook to be fined $US5 billion for privacy violations…

The US Federal Trade Commission has approved a roughly $US5 billion ($7.1 billion) settlement with Facebook over its investigation into the social media company’s handling of user data, a source familiar with the situation has told Reuters.

Key points:

  • Penalty criticised as “a Christmas present five months early” for Facebook
  • The settlement would be the largest civil penalty ever paid to the agency
  • Source tells Reuters a final announcement on the settlement could come as early as next week

The FTC has been investigating allegations Facebook inappropriately shared information belonging to 87 million users with the now-defunct British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.

The probe had focused on whether the data sharing violated a 2011 consent agreement between Facebook and the regulator.

Investors cheered news of the deal and pushed Facebook shares up 1.8 per cent, while several powerful Democratic politicians in Washington condemned the proposed penalty as inadequate.

The FTC is expected to include in the settlement other restrictions on how Facebook treats user privacy, according to the Wall Street Journal, which also said that the agency vote was along party lines, with three Republicans voting to approve it and two Democrats opposed.

Full story: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-07-13/facebook-5-billion-dollar-fine-cambridge-analytica-privacy/11306324