When you use a voice assistant like Google Assistant, Alexa, or Siri, the A.I. doesn’t always get your command right. Until last summer, companies were using human reviewers to listen to your command and doublecheck results. But the practice wasn’t clear to users. Google paused its human reviewer program, but now it’d like to start listening to your voice again—with your permission.
Last summer feels like more than a year ago, so it be hard to remember the controversy. Last April, it became evident to users that everything they said to a voice assistant went to Google, Amazon, and other companies.
The idea was to have humans listen to the audio and doublecheck that the assistant understood correctly and responded appropriately. But false positives led to voice assistants uploading audio that users didn’t direct at their speakers. Family dinners, medical details, and more all made their way to cloud servers.
After people realized how often human reviewers listened to their conversations, the outrage began. All the companies paused human reviewers initially, but one by one each went back to the practice.
Now it’s Google’s turn. In an email sent to users, the company explains it’s turning off the setting that allows Google to store audio for every user. That setting empowers human reviewers, so by default, no one will send audio to Google. The idea is to make it your choice on whether or not Google can listen to your voice after you finish talking to Assistant.
But Google would like you to opt back into the audio storage and human reviewing. The practice helps it improve its service and respond more accurately.
The company didn’t say how many emails it’s sending out, but it’s likely anyone who interacts with Google Assistant will get one. The email contains a link to your Assistant settings to enable audio storage.
If you don’t want humans listening to your voice, you don’t have to anything. Hopefully, more companies follow Google’s lead and make features like this opt-in in the future, as opposed to out-out.
via The Verge