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

One of the German’s Data Protection Authorities – Hamburg’s Data Protection Authority has recently issued a ban regarding the internet giant Google. The ban considered the listening to conversations recorded on Google Home devices for three months across Europe.

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

In a statement on its website, the regulator warns the customers that 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’. 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: “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.”

Amazon and Apple likely to be handed similar bans soon.