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Google uses humans to review Google Assistant queries

CNET logo CNET 11/07/2019 Oscar Gonzalez
Google Assistant is accurate and there's a reason why.  © CNET

Google Assistant is accurate and there's a reason why. 

Google Assistant is the most accurate voice assistant on the market, beating out Samsung's Bixby, Amazon's Alexa and Apple's Siri . A new report says the company has humans listening to recorded search queries to help improve the accuracy of its assistant. 

A contractor provided Belgium-based VRT NWS with more than a thousand recordings of people using Google Home and the Google Assistant app to answer questions and conduct searches, the news outlet reported Thursday. There were also recordings from when the assistant was accidentally triggered. 

The Google contractor says the job entails listening to the recordings to check the accuracy of the assistant listening to users speaking in Dutch. Contractors review the script of the recorded query and confirm it matches with the voice recording. There are reportedly thousands of Google employees worldwide listening to audio excerpts via a secure login in the company's Crowdsource app.

In response to the report, Google says that these contractors listen to 0.2% of all recordings and that user accounts aren't associated with the recordings.

"These language experts review and transcribe a small set of queries to help us better understand those languages," David Monsees, product manager for Google Search, said in a blog post Thursday. "This is a critical part of the process of building speech technology, and is necessary to creating products like the Google Assistant." 

Monsees says the contractor violated the company's data security policies and there is an investigation underway. 

When setting up a Google account, the option for voice and audio activity is set to off by default. Users have to opt in to store recordings on the account, and there's a disclosure that the recordings could be used to improve the speech systems.

In April, a report found Amazon uses human workers to listen to Alexa recordings to improve Alexa's accuracy. 

Originally published July 11 at 7:29 a.m. PT.

Update 8:08 a.m. PT: Adds Google comment. 

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