Is Google Spying On You? Home Mini Smart Speaker Design Flaw Meant That It May Have Monitored Your Every Word

Android Police founder and reporter Artem Russakovskii first uncovered the bug

  • A flaw with the long-press gesture led to what Google called 'phantom touches'

  • This meant that the device was constantly mointoring for verbal instructions

  • Google has issued updated software to disable the feature while it finds a fix

  • By Tim Collins For Mailonline

    Published: 11:57 BST, 11 October 2017 | Updated: 11:24 BST, 12 October 2017

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    Privacy is a growing concern in an increasingly connected world and a design flaw with Google's latest smart speaker may ring alarm bells for some.

    The Home Mini is meant to bring the convenience of the firm's smart assistant to any room at an affordable price, but it may have been doing more than just that.

    Users uncovered a quirk in some models which meant that the gadget was constantly monitoring and recording their speech.

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    Privacy is a growing concern in an increasingly connected world and a design flaw with Google's latest smart speaker may ring alarm bells for some. Users have uncovered a quirk in some models which means that the gadget is constantly monitoring their speech (stock)

    Privacy is a growing concern in an increasingly connected world and a design flaw with Google's latest smart speaker may ring alarm bells for some. Users have uncovered a quirk in some models which means that the gadget is constantly monitoring their speech (stock)

    HOME MINI SPEAKER 

    Google launched the Home Mini, along with a raft of new products, at an official unveiling event last week.

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

    It has four hidden LED lights used to communicate, and users can also tap it to pause music. 

    It has a 360 degree speaker, and will come in three colours - coral, grey and charcoal.

    It is £60 ($80) less than the original Home speaker, and the same price as Amazon's Echo Dot.

    Android Police founder Artem Russakovskii first uncovered the bug, which relates to the long-press gesture function built into the Home Mini.

    This lets users bring up the smart assistant with the touch of a button, activating voice commands.

    Mr Russakovskii was eager to get his hands on one of the devices to put it through its paces.

    He found that, due to what Google has called 'phantom touches', the Home Mini was in a constant state of anticipation, listening for and awaiting verbal instructions.

    While this in itself is a fairly minor inconvenience, it has major implications for the privacy of users and could, in theory, let Google monitor everything that is said in your home.

    This information is also transmitted to the Mountain View firm's servers, raising the possibility of the information being recorded.

    Writing in Android Police, he said: 'Without fail, every time a new listening device comes to market, some tinfoil hat-wearer points out how perfect they would be as modern-day Trojan horses for any of the three-letter acronym organizations - NSA, CIA, FBI - you name it.

    'I didn't give too much thought to these privacy concerns because they all sounded theoretical and unlikely. 

    '[But[ the Mini was behaving very differently from all the other Homes and Echos in my home.

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

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    'All of this was done quietly, with only the four lights on the unit I wasn't looking at flashing on and then off.'

    Google was quick to address the problem and has since issued a software update disabling the device's touch button, until a more permanent solution can be found.

    This means the Home Mini will effectively ship without a touch function.

    Speaking to MailOnline, a spokesman said: 'We learned of an issue impacting a small number of Google Home Mini devices that could cause the touch mechanism to behave incorrectly. 

    The Home Mini (pictured) is meant to bring the convenience of the firm's smart assistant to any room at an affordable price, but it may have been doing more than just that

    The Home Mini (pictured) is meant to bring the convenience of the firm's smart assistant to any room at an affordable price, but it may have been doing more than just that

    Android Police founder Artem Russakovskii first uncovered the bug, which relates to the long-press gesture function built into the Home Mini. A flaw  led to what Google called 'phantom touches', with the device constantly monitoring and recording voice activity (pictured)

    Android Police founder Artem Russakovskii first uncovered the bug, which relates to the long-press gesture function built into the Home Mini. A flaw led to what Google called 'phantom touches', with the device constantly monitoring and recording voice activity (pictured)

    'We rolled out an update on October 7 to mitigate the issue, before Google Home Mini is shipped to anyone in the UK.' 

    Google launched the Home Mini, along with a raft of new products, at an official unveiling event last week.

    Speaking at the event Isabelle Olsson, a senior industrial designer for Google, said: 'It's small enough to be placed anywhere in the home.

    'The home is a special intimate place, form and size really matter, and you should never have to think about how you interact with it.'

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

    It has four hidden LED lights used to communicate, and users can also tap it to pause music. 

    It has a 360 degree speaker, and will come in three colours - coral, grey and charcoal.

    It is £60 ($80) less than the original Home speaker, and the same price as Amazon's Echo Dot.

    Source : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4969300/Home-Mini-smart-speaker-flaw-let-Google-spy-you.html?ITO=1490

    Is Google spying on you? Home Mini smart speaker design flaw meant that it may have monitored your every word