Published: Fri, October 13, 2017
Science | By Cecil Little

Google disables the Mini speaker's top button to fix spying bug

Google disables the Mini speaker's top button to fix spying bug

A major flaw has been detected in the newly-unveiled Google Home Mini speaker that allows it to secretly record conversations without users knowing. This means that the only way to trigger the Assistant on these devices, as well as play/pause/stop alarms, is through voice. And Google is now addressing one of these defects with a drastic change in the Google Home Mini capabilities. Android Police first discovered the issue in one of their review units. It's a good thing this issue was uncovered before the home hubs went on general sale, but does perhaps raise wider concerns around the potential for recording devices in our homes to malfunction, and capture information we may not be happy with sharing.

According to Google, some of the Home Mini devices were registering "phantom" touches on the touch panel, which incorrectly woke up Google Assistant, in Russakovskii's case thousands of times a day.

What gives? You look it up online, only to discover Google disabled the button after someone discovered their Home Mini was constantly recording them.

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The recently announced Google Home Mini is basically like the Google Home, except smaller.

The Google Home Mini was recently the subject of controversy for recording audio clips without the user's permission.

The £49 ($49) speaker is made out of fabric which Google says it developed itself.

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Google said: "We take user privacy and product quality concerns very seriously". This feature let users interact with the Home Mini without needing to say "Okay Google" to get its attention. Now, an updated will be rolled out to every Home Mini by the end of October 15, permanently removing the touch-to-listen feature. However, those who want to turn it on by touch were able to hold their hands down on the device and send off some requests to Google's virtual assistant.

With the top button gone, the Home Mini now has to be activated entirely by voice, which isn't really a huge limitation since it's created to be a voice assistant.

It seems that the issue only affected a select number of devices, but now Google has turned off the ability to tap the top of any Google Home Mini to issue a voice command, which should be enough to stop the bug from reoccuring.

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Last week, Google showed off its next-generation smart speakers at an event in San Francisco. Touching the side to adjust the Mini's volume is also unaffected.

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