Google has caused a stir after it announced Google Assistant would be coming to the Nest Secure home security system. The problem? The Nest Secure’s specs never mentioned it had a microphone.
Now, Google has said the omission was an error. “The on-device microphone was never intended to be a secret and should have been listed in the tech specs. That was an error on our part,” a spokesperson told Business Insider
. Additionally, Google says the microphone isn’t operational unless Assistant is activated.
The thought that there may be secret microphones on devices in your house is a paranoiac’s nightmare. Although given the general public’s seeming acceptance of the idea that Facebook listens to their conversations through their phones (this has been denied many times and there are technical reasons why it wouldn’t be feasible), a nefarious tech company might well think they could get away with sneaking microphones into customers’ homes.
It’s impossible to say whether Google really did slip up with not telling customers about the microphone, but it highlights the need for better regulation around internet-connected gadgets. What data do they collect? What data can they feasibly collect in the future given the hardware specs concerned? What do they do with the data when it’s collected?
In the EU, a lot of this is covered by GDPR, but it should be part of the information easily available to customers before they buy a product. In the meantime, we should consider very carefully what we tech we let into our homes.