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Google launches review after leak of audio conversations

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Google said it was conducting an internal review after it discovered confidential audio had been leaked by a contractor of private conversations with its digital assistant.

The US internet giant acknowledged “misconduct” in the leak of the Dutch language conversations by one of its language experts contracted to help refine its Google Assistant, the artificial intelligence-powered system for voice interactions.

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Google made the announcement Thursday following a report by Belgian broadcaster VRT that it could access fragments of conversations from smart speakers and other Google devices in Belgium and Netherlands.

The leak appeared to be from one of the language experts Google uses around the world to help it refine its program.

“We just learned that one of these language reviewers has violated our data security policies by leaking confidential Dutch audio data,” Google product manager David Monsees said in a blog post.

“Our security and privacy response teams have been activated on this issue, are investigating, and we will take action. We are conducting a full review of our safeguards in this space to prevent misconduct like this from happening again.”

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The incident highlighted concerns about smart speakers and devices “listening” to private conversations or archiving audio files that could be inappropriately accessed.

Privacy activists have accused Amazon of inappropriately storing conversations with children on its Echo Kids devices, asking for a federal investigation.

Amazon has said it complies with federal laws on audio data and relies on guidance from family safety experts for its data storage.

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Zuckerberg: new Facebook panel can overrule him

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Facebook said Tuesday it has finalized its charter for its "independent oversight board," giving the panel the authority to overrule chief executive Mark Zuckerberg on questions of appropriate content.

The new entity, based on Zuckerberg's call for a "supreme court" that would make difficult calls on what is suitable content for Facebook, is moving closer to reality with the charter released by the social network.

Zuckerberg said in a statement the independent panel would have the final say on these matters of what belongs on the social platform.

"If someone disagrees with a decision we've made, they can appeal to us first, and soon they will be able to further appeal to this independent board," he said.

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Human Rights Watch accuses Brazil’s Bolsonaro of giving a ‘green light’ to illegal loggers to destroy the Amazon

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Human Rights Watch on Tuesday accused Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro of giving a "green light" to illegal loggers to destroy the Amazon and failing to protect those defending the world's largest rain forest.

Bolsonaro, whose anti-environment rhetoric and policies have been widely blamed for a spike in fires and land clearing in the Amazon this year, has promised to open up the remote region to more development even as he faces growing international criticism.

Official figures show Amazon deforestation nearly doubled in the first eight months of this year, compared with the same period in 2018, to 6,404 square kilometers (2,472 square miles) -- more than twice the size of Luxembourg.

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So-called ‘limited’ nuclear war would actually be very bad and kill tens of millions, warns new report

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"We urgently need sensible action to reduce and eliminate nuclear risk."

Even a limited nuclear war would be catastrophic and kill millions, a new study finds, despite the belief of the Pentagon that the U.S. military could effectively and safely use nuclear weapons in a conflict.

The report, which Princeton University's Science and Global Security Lab presents in video form, affirms the position of anti-nuclear war activists that no use of nuclear weapons is sensible—or safe.

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