Earlier this month, Google upgraded its home security and alarm system, Nest Secure to work with its Google Assistant. This meant that Nest Secure customers would be able to perform tasks like asking Google about the weather. The device came with a microphone for this purpose, without it being mentioned on the device’s published specifications.
On Tuesday, a Google spokesperson got in touch with Business Insider and told them that the miss was an “error” on their part. “The on-device microphone was never intended to be a secret and should have been listed in the tech specs.
Further, the Nest team added that the microphone has “never been on” and is activated only when users specifically enable the option. As an explanation as to why the microphone was installed in the devices, the team said that it was in order to support future features “such as the ability to detect broken glass.”
Before sending over an official statement to Business Insider, the Nest team replied to a similar concern from a user on Twitter, in early February.
@nest where in any of the nest guard product materials does it mention a microphone? Have I had a device with a hidden microphone in my house this entire time?
— Me (@treaseye) February 4, 2019
Scott Galloway, professor of marketing at the New York University Stern School of Business, has expressed strong sentiments regarding this news on Twitter
Oops! We neglected to mention we're recording everything you do while fronting as a security device. The fact that we can record you is in no way intentional, a mic must have just fallen into the device. https://t.co/ebNdMnD8jZ
— Scott Galloway (@profgalloway) February 20, 2019
Users have even accused Google of “pretending the mistake happened” and slammed Google over such an error.
For all these tech companies hiring the smartest people available they sure do a good job pretending innocent mistakes just happen. And the craziest thing is people believe it.
— Tim Shisler (@tshisler) February 20, 2019
I love how tech giants think calling some massive betrayal of user trust “an error” makes it all better. Google had a secret mic in Nest Secure. Wtf. pic.twitter.com/XXYXSLe5qQ
— Josh Constine (@JoshConstine) February 20, 2019
Apart from Google, there have also been multiple cases in the past of Amazon Alexa and Google home listening to people’s conversations, thus invading privacy. Earlier this year, a family in Portland, discovered that its Alexa-powered Echo device had recorded their private conversation and sent it to a random person in their contacts list.
Google’s so-called “error” can lead to a drop in the number of customers buying its home security system as well as a drop in the trust users place in Google’s products. It is high time Google starts thinking along the line of security standards and integrity maintained in its products.