Google Admits Employees Can Listen To Google Assistant Recordings Before The ‘Hey Google’ Trigger


Google Assistant is one of the most popular digital assistant, available in various Google products, notably on some Google apps and its Google Home/Nest products.

To engage with the assistant, all users have to do, is say the "Hey Google" trigger, and Google will then listen to the command/query that follows.

Google however, admitted that its Google Assistant does listen to any sound or voice, even when there is no "Hey Google" command being said. And Google also admits that its employees do listen to these recorded sound and voices.

The tech giant made this admission during a closed-door meeting the the Indian government officials, according to a report.

This happens, according to a Google representative, because Google Assistant needs to always be ready for the trigger. This is why snippets of any sound and voice before the trigger is also recorded.

And because things before the trigger can be recorded, they are also sent to Google for processing. And Google employees can also listen to them because of this.

Google Home/Nest
Credit: Ledger Donjon

Speaking to Android Authority, Google clarified how the assistant system works.

"In standby mode, the device processes short snippets of audio (a few seconds) to detect an activation -- like when you say, 'Hey Google.'"

"If no activation is detected, then those audio snippets won't be sent or saved to Google."

But the thing is, when the assistant does detect the wake word, it will send "the recording" to Google, which "can include a few seconds before you activate your Assistant to catch your request at the right time."

It's these recordings that Google employees can listen, in order to improve the language comprehension in its products.

"As part of our work to develop speech technology for more languages, we partner with language experts around the world who understand the nuances and accents of a specific language," David Monsees, product manager for Google Search, explained in 2019.

"These language experts review and transcribe a small set of queries to help us better understand those languages. This is a critical part of the process of building speech technology, and is necessary to create products like the Google Assistant."

However, it should be noted here that Google has since change its policies.

Google requires Home and Nest users to opt-in into having their voice searches recorded in the first place, in response to the backlash.

Users can manage all this by signing in to their Google Account, and visit the 'My Activity' section.

There, they can read a list of the recordings Google has about them. And there, users can also delete the recordings if they want to.

Users can also toggle the recordings on or off.