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Apple and Google have stopped letting humans listen to voice recordings

August 2, 2019
Someone working on a computer and laptop simultaneously, with headphones on
Someone working on a computer and laptop simultaneously, with headphones on
Someone working on a computer and laptop simultaneously, with headphones onUnsplash

The suspension is only temporary, though, and in Google’s case it has only ended the practice in European Union countries.

The news: Last week, the Guardian revealed that about 1% of conversations with Siri are reviewed by people, without Apple providing any notifications or seeking any consent from consumers. Today, Apple has said it will suspend the program worldwide. It has promised to review the quality control process and issue a software update to give people the option to opt out.

Google too: Google, which has also been caught out sharing voice assistant recordings with contractors, has suspended the practice too, but only in the European Union (most probably because of the bloc’s tighter data protection laws). It’s promised to suspend the program for at least three months, while it works with German regulators (which are currently probing the company’s data practices).

What about Amazon? Amazon was the first company caught doing this: getting humans to review Alexa recordings. It hasn’t yet said whether it will change any of its practices.

Why do people care? These recordings sometimes include highly personal conversations, people’s private medical details, or the sound of them showering or having sex. The outrage has stemmed from the fact voice assistant users were mostly neither informed nor asked for their consent. And in Apple’s case, it’s a blow to the company’s oft-repeated claim that it is the most privacy-conscious of the major technology firms.

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