Google has acknowledged that its employees are given access to recordings made by its smart home devices in users’ homes which are later sent to the company, in a statement published by the tech company on Thursday.
The company’s statement comes after an anonymous employee leaked thousands of audio fragments to VRT news, some of which had been recorded in the homes of people in Flanders, and 153 of which had been recorded without the users’ consent.
In its blog, the company said that its Google Assistant stored the fragments and that language experts were hired to review them “as part of [the company’s] work to develop speech technology for more languages.”
While the company said that the audio fragments are stripped of any account information as part of the review process, VRT was able to use the leaked snippets to track down users and playback audio recorded in their homes.
The company further said that users could turn off the setting for the storage of the audio, adding that the assistants only “sent audio to Google” when users interacted directly with them.
“Rarely, devices that have the Google Assistant built-in may experience what we call a ‘false accept,'” the statement read, referring to instances when the smart speakers turned on without being prompted to.
“We have a number of protections in place to prevent false accepts from occurring in your home,” the statement said.
The company said that it would take action against the employee that leaked the audio files to the Dutch-speaking news site for violating the company’s “data security policies.”
The Brussels Times