Google Home Mini was eavesdropping on consumers

12 October, 2017, 01:01 | Author: Boyd Miller
  • Google's Home Mini needed a software patch to stop some of them from recording everything

According to Android Police's Artem Russakovskii, he received a demo unit at an October 4th tech press event and installed the device in his bathroom.

When the new Google Home Mini was announced recently, Google gave the device out to a number of people to test out. The Google Home Mini won't officially hit store shelves until October 19.

Home assistants all work in a similar way: you say a hotword - "Alexa" for Amazon Echo, "Hey Google" for Google Homes - and they switch on, ready to record your question/order, send it to the cloud, and then answer/execute your order.

As an added precaution, all activity and queries created by long-pressing the touch sensor on Home Mini speakers between October 4-7 have been wiped and will no longer show up on owner's My Activity Page.

After this, the idea of Google's AI going rogue starts taking concrete shape when it was known that Google got the unit collected from the user.

Google was quick to respond to the issue and has already dispatched a software update for the Home Mini to fix the bug as well as documentation to reflect the change. As a result, Google has rolled out a software patch that deactivates the touch panel entirely.

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It's great to see Google hurry to fix the issue, but this is still a PR nightmare.

Instead, said touch panel "behaved incorrectly", registering "phantom" presses, and not only listening to everything that went down around the faulty Google Home Mini unit, but constantly recording audio, which was then stored on the company's servers. The Home Mini costs a mere $50, though, and includes nearly all the features of the larger Home.

As explained by Google, the issue affected devices that were given out at the U.S. Made by Google launch event.

Smart speakers like the Google Home Mini are formulated to only attend to distinct wake word. 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 issue prevailed over the few initial units of Google Home Mini, including the ones that were distributed as review units. 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.

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