Google ordered to cease manual review of audio recordings from its AI over privacy concerns

Brad Wilsonby:


Google has been asked to cease manual reviews of audio clips collected through its voice AI by a German-based privacy watchdog. This was followed by an array of leaked voice clips from the Google Assistant service. 

A contractor employed as a Dutch language reviewer by Google leaked more than 1,000 audio clips to the VRT news site in Belgian, which was able to identify some of the people from the audio clips. The reported snippets had personal information about people including their addresses, medical conditions, and recordings of a distressed woman.

The Hamburg data protection authority notified Google of its purpose for using Article 66 powers of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to create an order. Article 66 enables a DPA to cease data processing if it considers that there is a significant threat to personal information or to the rights and freedoms of data subjects. 
The order passed under Article 66 to Google is the first implementation of the power since May last year, when the GDPR came into force. 

Google said that the order came on Jul 26 and it requires to stop manually reviewing audio clips collected from its AI in Germany for a span of three months. Although the organization had already considered stopping manual review of audio snippets gathered from Google Assistant all throughout Europe- from July 10 onwards, after learning about the data leak in Belgian. 

Google also informed the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC), it’s lead privacy regulator in Europe about the breach- which stated that it is currently “examining” the issue which has been highlighted by the order of Hamburg. 

Graham Doyle, the Irish DPC’s head of communications, stated that Google Ireland filed a breach notification for Article 33 a few weeks ago for the Google Assistant data. He further said that Google Ireland had stopped the processing of audio snippets from Google Assistant and will continue to do so for at least a period of three months, beginning from August 1. 

Although it is still unclear whether Google will be able to restore manual reviews of audio clips in Europe in a manner which is compliant with the privacy rules of the bloc. The Hamburg DPA writes on its website in German that it has strong doubts if Google Assistant complies with the data protection laws of the EU.

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