Does Google Home violate privacy?

Google employees listen to, and analyse in detail, recordings made by its Home speakers and the Assistant app on smartphones. And all that without clear notification, let alone permission, a Belgian news show claims.

 

"Employees listen in"

The tech company employs people the world over to listen to recordings and make the search engine smarter. Belgian TV station VRT was able to listen to thousands of those recordings: often parts that were wilfully recorded, but also parts that were recorded without anyone noticing - sometimes with sensitive information. This is despite the fact Google has always maintained it did not eavesdrop on its customers.

 

Minister of Privacy Philippe De Backer has now demanded an inquest into the matter: according to the European GDPR regulation, valid since May 2018, users have to give explicit permission for companies to use their data - and they have to be informed clearly to what end the data will be used. "This revelation points to shortcomings and a lack of transparency, the Minister said on TV show Terzake. Two data experts even call this "stealing data from uninformed users", and they claim "Google is failing in the protection of data".

 

The Data Protection Authority may well start its own inquest as well, president David Stevens says: "People who feel aggrieved by this news can file a complaint, but we can also start a case ourselves", as Belgian newspaper De Standaard quotes him.