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German regulator bans Google from listening to Google Home recordings for three months across Europe

Written by Thu 1 Aug 2019

Amazon and Apple likely to be handed similar bans

Hamburg’s Data Protection Authority has banned Google from listening to conversations recorded on Google Home devices for three months across Europe.

Google has been complying with the authority’s decision since August 1, when the three month ban was initiated.

The regulator added that Amazon and Apple would also likely be subject to an investigation.

In a statement on its website, the regulator said using automated language assistants from Google, Apple, and Amazon is ‘a high risk to the privacy’ of consumers.

The regulator added that not only people who own home devices are affected by conversation evaluations but also ‘anyone who comes into contact with it, such as when they live in a household that uses devices that have Google Assistant’ (translated).

The authority opened an investigation into Google after it emerged the company had been listening to intimate conversations of customers, even when users hadn’t activated the device by saying the phrase “Ok Google”.

Google’s practices came to light after a whistleblower leaked details to the media. The leak revealed that Google employees and companies commissioned by the company regularly listened to recordings and transcribed them to evaluate and improve the company’s speech recognition technology, which is powered by machine learning.

The whistleblower, who remains anonymous, provided recordings to substantiate their claims. In a blog post, Google later admitted the claims were accurate.

Johannes Caspar, the Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information, said (translated): “The use of language assistance systems in the EU must comply with the data protection requirements of the GDPR. In the case of the Google Assistant, there are currently significant doubts.”

Written by Thu 1 Aug 2019


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