Tuesday, 24 October, 2017

Google Home Mini Caught Spying

Google's Home Mini needed a software patch to stop some of them from recording everything Google updates Home Mini to address major privacy bug
Terence Owen | 12 October, 2017, 01:00

Russakovskii's Home Mini review unit was recording everything, and it all happened without his knowledge. He noticed that his Google Home Mini was active and recording sound throughout the day, not only when he uttered the "OK, Google" keyword. Good news is that Google was partially able to fix the issue before it panned.

Ouch. With the Google Home Mini being released on October 18th, it was discovered that some of them were constantly recording audio and transmitting it back to Google without being intentionally activated.

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.

Basically, the Google Home Mini has a feature that allows users to activate the Google Assistant by using a long touch, which was malfunctioning and registering phantom touches. Google Glass was notoriously badly received mainly for the on-board camera, and the Google Home (and Mini) come with mute switches for the mic built-in. We are rolling out a software update today that should address the issue.

Russakovskil quickly informed Google of what he found and the company pushed out a patch to fix the issue by removing the touch activation from the Home Mini.

Watch a Remote-Control Nissan GT-R Take on Silverstone
Six computers also connected everything together and were able to make adjustments up to 100 times per second. Four robots inside the auto controlled the steering, transmission, throttle and brakes.

It turns out that some Google Home Minis, the smart speakers that the company released in early October, were nearly continuously recording audio from users' homes.

As well as documenting his finding, Russakovskii reported the issue to Google - and the company was quick to respond and investigate. We immediately rolled out a software update on October 7 to mitigate the issue. But that's not the case for Google's Home Mini speaker.

As explained by Google, the issue affected devices that were given out at the U.S. Made by Google launch event. The software fix prevents the activation of the speaker with a touch, which was a feature meant to offer options for activation.

That seems to be the rub (pardon the pun) with Russakovskii's Mini: it thought that somebody was holding its finger down on the top and so was randomly activating and recording. The bug won't impact the Google Home Max, as it isn't launching until December.

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