Tutanota Interviews Tim Verheyden, the Journalist Who Broke the Story on Google Employees Listening to People’s Audio Recordings


Google employees listen to you, but the issue of "ghost workers" transcends Google. 

Investigative journalist Tim Verheyden, who broke the story on how Google employees listen to people’s audio recordings, explains in an interview how he got hold of the story, why he is now using the encrypted contact form Secure Connect by Tutanota and why the growing number of "ghost workers" in and around Silicon Valley is becoming a big issue in Tech.

Tutanota: Tim, you have broken a great story on VRT News about how employees of Google subcontractors listen to our conversations when using devices such as Google Home. What was that story about? What was the privacy violation?

Tim Verheyden: Google provides a range of information on privacy—and data gathering. In this particular case, Google says on audio gathering that it can save your audio to learn the sound of your voice, learn how we say phrases and words, recognize when we say "Ok Google" to improve speech recognition. Google does not speak about the human interaction in the chain of training the AI on speech recognition. For some experts, this is a violation of the new GDPR law.

Tutanota: How did the employee of the Google subcontractor who leaked the story get in touch with you?

Tim: By email, he shared his thoughts on an article we wrote about Alexa (Amazon) after Bloomberg broke the news about humans listening.

Tutanota: Tutanota has recently launched Secure Connect, and you had added this encrypted contact form to your website a few weeks ago. What do you expect from Secure Connect?

Tim: I hope it will encourage people with a story to get in contact. It does not always need to be a whitsleblower story. Because of security concerns—and other reasons—people are sometimes reluctant to contact a journalist. I hope Secure Connect will help build trust in relationships with journalists.

Tutanota: More and more journalists are offering Secure Connect so that whistleblowers can drop important information or get in touch with investigative journalists confidentially. Why do you believe a secure communication channel is important?