Google today announced a series of privacy focused changes that will soon come to Google Assistant. The goal is to address recent concerns about how the company was processing data of users of that service.
In the past Google used contractors to listen to portions of customers’ conversations with their voice assistants. The company used this eavesdropping in part to flag audio issues, like misinterpreted commands. Google put the program on hold in July because regulators launched a probe into the practice after a staffer leaked over a thousand audio recordings of Google Assistant to the public.
The company says they will now only store the audio of consumers who opt in to a “Voice & Audio Activity” option when setting up Google Assistant. Google says they are also being more transparent about the collection. In the past the setting didn’t make it clear recordings would be accessible by humans. Google is updating their user interface, and is asking existing users to reconfirm that they agree to human audio reviews.
Google is also limiting how much data it collects and stores. Nino Tasca, a senior product manager in the Google Assistant team, wrote in the blog post, “We will soon automatically delete the vast majority of audio data associated with your account that’s older than a few months,”
Google also plans to lower the risk of unintended audio recordings by adding a setting to make it possible to adjusts the Assistant’s sensitivity to activation phrases. And the company says they will make changes that help prevent sensitive conversations from being sent to Google’s servers.
If this sounds like “Deja Vu All Over Again” it may be because the changes Google will be rolling out over the next few months sound a lot like the one’s announced a few weeks ago by Apple. Apple also got into a bit of trouble for having contractors review audio captured by Siri.