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Some Google Home Minis Were Recording Unsuspecting Users
12 October 2017, 01:01 | Denise Dawson
Google updates Home Mini to address major privacy bug
These faulty sensors can be found on the first units of the Google Home Mini, and these were the units that were handed over to the reviewers at Google'sPixel event October 4, 2017. The Home Mini units gave no indication they were recording beyond silently flashing their four display lights - a notification that you'd only notice if you were looking directly at the device. That's bad, you know, because your Google Home units shouldn't be listening to you unless you purposely activate them.
Google says in a support note that it's fixed an issue that caused the Home Mini's touch controls to behave incorrectly.
Under normal circumstances, you can long press the touch control to speak a command.
While this in itself is a fairly minor inconvenience, it has major implications for the privacy of users and could, in theory, let Google monitor everything that is said in your home.
As we mentioned earlier, Google was quick to take up the matter and pushed an update to fix the issue. Their Home Mini smart speaker is one such example of making AI available to the masses.
One of those reviewers is reporting that the Home Mini he was writing about was nearly constantly recording sounds in his home.
Russakovskil quickly informed Google of what he found and the company pushed out a patch to fix the issue by removing the touch activation from the Home Mini. It was here that he noticed the thousands of recordings with timestamps to go along with them. After swapping the device with Google, Google engineers determined that Russakovskii's Home Mini had a defective touch panel that was registering "phantom" touch events. The culprit, it seemed, was the device's touch panel, created to allow his Home Mini to activate Google Assistant without a verbal command; due to a fault, the device constantly experienced "phantom" touch events that turned the assistant on and began recording. We immediately rolled out a software update on October 7 to mitigate the issue. Pre-ordered Google Home Mini purchases aren't affected. It appears that there was a bug in some of the Minis that caused it to think that long presses were being conducted and thus triggering the recording of sound. Some people already have doubts on the smart speaker functionality as it sends the information to the cloud and shares data.
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