Google Assistant no longer saves voice recordings by default

Google Assistant no longer stores recordings of user’s voices by default, Google announced today. VentureBeat reached out to Google for clarification on when it changed its policy to store voice recordings.

Now people who interact with Google Assistant will have to opt-in with the new Voice & Audio Activity (VAA) program when setting up their Google Assistant to have their voice recorded or reviewed by humans. That data can be used to improve Google Assistant’s conversational AI or Google’s ability to recognize a person’s voice. Existing Voice Match users will be prompted to reconfirm they want their recordings stored by Google.

Google Assistant users will also soon be given the option to reduce the sensitivity of the AI assistant’s response to the “Hey Google” command.

The series of changes were introduced after Google paused human review of recordings this summer.

“It’s clear that we fell short of our high standards in making it easy for you to understand how your data is used, and we apologize,” the company said in a blog post.

After hearing a wake word, AI assistants like Cortana, Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant use voice recordings to improve conversational AI systems trained with labeled and unlabeled data. 2019 began with the media and public thinking that humans don’t listen to interactions recorded by AI assistants but in recent months we learned that’s not the case, inflaming fear that smart speakers can be used to eavesdrop on individuals.

The truth became clear this spring, when Bloomberg reported and Amazon confirmed that human contractors in various parts of the world listen to voice recordings after hearing the “Alexa” wake word or similar sounds.

Then in July, a third-party contractor leaked Google Assistant voice recordings for users in the Netherlands. A day later, Google verified that humans review some recordings, less than 1 percent, the company said shortly after the news broke. Siri recordings were also revealed as reviewed by humans, then Cortana.

In response, both Apple and Google pledged to halt human reviews, and Amazon allowed users to disable human voice recording reviews.

While introducing Portal TV and two other new devices last week, Facebook’s Portal team also acknowledged that its collects user voice recordings.

Lawmakers in states like California and Illinois this year have considered legislation to require the makers of Ai assistants receive permission from users before recording their voice data.

Read this VentureBeat article for instructions on how to limit or get rid of voice recordings by the makers of popular AI assistants like Alexa, Bixby, or Google Assistant.