August 1, 2019 / 7:34 PM / 17 days ago

Google suspends transcription of voice assistant clips in Europe

FILE PHOTO: A sign is pictured outside a Google office near the company's headquarters in Mountain View, California, U.S., May 8, 2019. REUTERS/Dave Paresh/File Photo

(Reuters) - Alphabet Inc’s Google (GOOGL.O) has suspended reviewing voice recordings from its Google Assistant virtual helper in the European Union after a leak of Dutch audio data, a company spokeswoman told Reuters on Thursday.

The company admitted here in July that partners who work to analyze voice snippets from the Assistant leaked the data.

More than 1,000 private conversations were sent to a Belgian news outlet, CNBC reported earlier, adding that some of the messages revealed sensitive information such as medical conditions and customer addresses.

“Shortly after we learned about the leaking of confidential Dutch audio data, we paused language reviews of the Assistant to investigate,” the spokeswoman said. The company performs reviews for only around 0.2% of all audio clips, she added.

The suspension comes amid increased public and political scrutiny of data privacy practices, forcing greater transparency from Silicon Valley companies.

Proposals being weighed by lawmakers in the United States and elsewhere would limit how Google, Facebook Inc (FB.O) and other internet companies track consumers and distribute information.

Google said it is working with the Hamburg data protection authority and is assessing how it conducts audio reviews.

Google will suspend the transcriptions for at least three months, according to the CNBC report, citing the Associated Press.

Reporting by Akanksha Rana and Uday Sampath in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila

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