GOOGLE, AMAZON, AND Apple say their AI-powered virtual assistants make it easier to get things done on smartphones or at home. Last month, a couple in the Waasmunster area of Belgium got an unexpected lesson in how these supposedly automated helpers really work.
Tim Verheyden, a journalist with Belgian public broadcaster VRT, contacted the couple bearing a mysterious audio file. To their surprise, they clearly heard the voices of their son and baby grandchild—as captured by Google’s virtual assistant on a smartphone.
Verheyden says he gained access to the file and more than 1,000 others from a Google contractor who is part of a worldwide workforce paid to review some audio captured by the assistant from devices including smart speakers, phones, and security cameras. One recording contained the couple’s address and other information suggesting they are grandparents.