Bug Allowed Google Home Mini Speakers to Record Everything

Bug Allowed Google Home Mini Speakers to Record Everything

Smart speakers like the Google Home Mini are created to only listen for a specific wake word - in this case it's "Hey Google" or "Ok Google". While Google distributed up to 4,000 Home Minis at the pre-release events, it's not clear whether all of them are impacted, and it told Russakovskii other pre-order units for the general retail market were not affected by the bug.

Writing in Android Police, he said: 'Without fail, every time a new listening device comes to market, some tinfoil hat-wearer points out how flawless they would be as modern-day Trojan horses for any of the three-letter acronym organizations - NSA, CIA, FBI - you name it. It would even become alert when the TV was switched on, trying to respond to what was being said.

(Google Home, as well as Alexa, save recordings of all commands to improve voice accuracy, both also offer the option to opt-out of this). He got in touch with the company at this point. The Google Home Mini won't officially hit store shelves until October 19.

After reporting the issue, it appears Google is right onto it, diagnosing a faulty touch panel on the device - the Google Home Mini can be activated by either touch or hot (Ok or Hey Google) words. Google is taking no risks with this defect-all Google Home Minis will have a day-one software update that disables the touch gesture to activate Assistant.

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Normally, the microphones in the speakers are supposed to activate only when a user says a certain phrase like "Hey Google". His report of the "near-constant" listening and recording prompted a quick response from Google. Apparently, some Home Mini devices register phantom touches, which leads to the speaker recording every sound around it. Upon further investigation of his Google account's My Activity portal, Russakovskii realized the device had transmitted thousands of audio recordings to the company without his knowledge, all of which were available for playback.

The worry with smart home speakers is that they have the built-in ability to record everything you say and sending that data to the company that makes them or to hackers that obtained access to such devices.

EPIC has pending complaints with the FTC and DOJ alleging that always-on devices like Google Home, Echo and Siri violate consumer protection law and federal wiretap law.

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