In a normal course, Google Assistant sends audio to Google after the device detects the user interacting with the Assistant - for example, by saying "Ok Google" or by physically triggering the Google Assistant.
"This is undeniably my own voice", one Flemish man told reporters when they played him a recording of himself talking to his Google Assistant. If they don't know how it is written, these employees have to look up every word, address, personal name or company name on Google or on Facebook.
The subcommittee plans to "examine the impact of market power of online platforms on innovation and entrepreneurship", according to a release announcing the hearing.
Perhaps the bigger issue is that although the company says that none of those audio clips are linked to any identifiable information, VRT NWS, which went over a thousand such recordings, said that some of the clips also reveal sensitive information such as addresses and using that data, they were able to track down the people involved.
Much like with Amazon's Alexa, Google pays people to listen to some Google Assistant recordings and transcribe them into text.
Google said that humans listen to only 0.2% of all audio clips. And based on the recordings, they actually didn't say "Hey Google" or "Ok Google" so this is a basic invasion of privacy.
"We are conducting a full review of our safeguards in this space to prevent misconduct like this from happening again", he wrote. Either way, this allows people who for work for Google to listen in on private conversations, some of which have sensitive information too. A customer could ask for the local weather for the day or about traffic, and the device would provide the answer to that if the question is understood accurately.
As for why Google is sending audio recordings to subcontractors, the employees explain that their transcriptions are used to improve Google Assistant's ability to understand and respond to commands.
How many smart voice activation device owners know that what they say is recorded by the company that produces these devices?
Google has admitted that it listens to voice recordings of users from its AI voice-assistant Google Assistant after its Dutch language recordings were leaked by Belgian public broadcaster VRT.
It also said that sometimes, devices that have the Google Assistant built in may experience what the company called a "false accept", which means there was some noise or words in the background that its software interpreted to be the hotword.
"We hold ourselves to high standards of privacy and security in product development, and hold our partners to these same standards", Google said.