Google Home Mini Records Everything Without User Consent! Sparks Outrage
It is the sort of privacy nightmare scenario that George Orwell had presented in his iconic book 1984!
Our worst fears are coming true. It is the sort of privacy nightmare that George Orwell in iconic book 1984 and Ray Bradbury in Fahrenheit 451 had explained.
Are the machines finally taking over the human intelligence?
Google’s smart speakers, Home Mini, which was launched this month, and scheduled for shipping from October 19th, has been found to be recording everything humans (or other machines) say. And this recording, or rather eavesdropping is happening without the users’ consent or approval.
In short, Google’s smart speakers are doing something which it has not been asked to.
To cover up the matter, Google has said that it is a minor hardware glitch, and has even declared the solution.
But, questions remains unanswered.
Google Home Mini: The Smart Speaker Doing The Evil Thing
Artem Russakovskii, founder of AndroidPolice, a popular blog related with Android was provided with a Google Home Mini smart speakers for experiencing and using it, before it is released on October 19th.
To his horror, he found that the device is listening and recording to everything, without his consent.
As per his blog, the smart speaker is supposed to be triggered when a hot-word is said, which is Hey or OK for Home Mini. Hot word for Amazon’s similar product Echos, is Alexa.
It may happen that a nearby TV or radio also broadcasts this hotword, and the smart speakers can get triggered. However, these are rare chances, and may or may not happen.
However, what Artem found was that, the device was behaving strangely, and waking up thousands of times, automatically.
After waking up, it was listening to the conversations, recording them, and sending them to Google’s servers, on auto-pilot. No consent or permission was being sought.
A typical privacy nightmare.
Google Responds: Promises To Fix The Error
After few days of this case being reported, Google responded.
“We have learned of an issue impacting a small number of Google Home Minis that could cause the touch mechanism to behave incorrectly. We are rolling out a software update today that should address the issue. If you’re having any additional issues, please feel free to contact Google Support at 1-855-971-9121.”
As a resolution to this issue, Google has decided to kill the touch functionality from all the devices, so that the hardware malfunction is not triggered automatically.
Hence, the only way to wake Google Home Mini is to say Hello or OK.
In a statement, Google said, “We take user privacy and product quality concerns very seriously. Although we only received a few reports of this issue, we want people to have complete peace of mind while using Google Home Mini.
We have made the decision to permanently remove all top touch functionality on the Google Home Mini. As before, the best way to control and activate Google Home Mini is through voice, by saying “Ok Google” or “Hey Google,” which is already how most people engage with our Google Home products. You can still adjust the volume by using the touch control on the side of the device.”
Besides, a support page was also published by Google, wherein they have explained what exactly went wrong, and how the problem is now under control.
We will keep you updated as we receive more updates.