Published: Thu, October 12, 2017
Industry | By Dora Warner

Google rushes fix after new Home Mini speaker gets caught spying

Google rushes fix after new Home Mini speaker gets caught spying

According to Google, a small number of the devices it handed out at the event were registering "phantom" touch events on the touch panel. 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. Google's online account security and privacy tools include an activity timeline that can be filtered to specific products and services, and Android Police confirmed that the Home Mini was indeed uploading thousands of audio snippets to Google's servers as if they were user commands. For now, the touch control on the top of review units has been killed and no longer activates the device with a long-press like it used to.

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. It advises that if you apply the software update and still experience a problem, Google will send out a replacement Home Mini to you.

As we mentioned earlier, Google was quick to take up the matter and pushed an update to fix the issue.

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To Google's credit, it seems to have scrambled the engineering jets to figure out the issue and create a fix.

'It was waking up, recording, then sending those recordings to Google.

If you're unsure why a self-activating Home Mini meant Russakovskii's bathroom activity was recorded: everything you say to Google Assistant across the company's devices is recorded and stored in Google's servers, unless you explicitly disable it in My Activity controls.

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There, clear as day, were thousands of items, each with a play button and a timestamp - recordings. We've reached out to Google for more information on which devices are affected and how this whole thing went down and we'll be following this story as it develops.

Apparently the touch sensor fault is limited to Home Mini speakers given out at Made by Google events, or about 4,000 devices.

He came to this conclusion after experiencing certain mishaps with the Google Home Mini, in which the smart speaker would fail to pick up on commands. Pre-ordered Google Home Mini purchases aren't affected.

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In response, Google has disabled the malfunctioning touch activation feature for Google Assistant for all users, which caused the problematic recording.

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