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Google answers privacy concerns with added transparency to Assistant

By Clyde Hughes
Google answers privacy concerns with added transparency to Assistant
Google drew criticism in July when it said language contractors had listened to users' audio recordings in an effort to improve the Assistant service. File Photo by Mohammad Kheirkhah/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 23 (UPI) -- Google announced Monday it will make changes to its Assistant to be more transparent about the audio snippets recorded by users that it reviews.

The change is a response to public outcry in July after the company said contractors had been listening to audio clips from users as a method to improve the service. Google said at the time it used language experts to review clips to improve Google Assistant's ability to interact with customers. The procedure was suspended last month.

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Monday, Google said going forward it will listen to recordings made only by users who volunteer to be part of the review process.

"It's clear that we fell short of our high standards in making it easy for you to understand how your data is used, and we apologize," Nino Tasca, senior product manager for Google Assistant, said in a statement.

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"When we learned about these concerns, we immediately paused this process of human transcription globally to investigate, and conducted a full review of our systems and controls."

Google said it has never stored audio recordings automatically. Tasca said using the Voice and Audio Activity will help Google Assistant better recognize users' voices over time and make past interactions with Assistant available.

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Google said it will also update the audio settings to ensure users are not included in the human review process unless they re-confirm the settings.

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"We believe in putting you in control of your data, and we always work to keep it safe," Tasca added. "We're committed to being transparent about how our settings work so you can decide what works best for you."

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