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Mon Aug 10, 2020, 03:34 PM

Whoops, our bad, we may have 'accidentally' let Google Home devices record your every word, sound

Whoops, our bad, we may have 'accidentally' let Google Home devices record your every word, sound – oops
- The Register, Aug. 8, 2020

In brief Your Google Home speaker may have been quietly recording sounds around your house without your permission or authorization, it was revealed this week.

The Chocolate Factory admitted it had accidentally turned on a feature that allowed its voice-controlled AI-based assistant to activate by itself and record its surroundings. Normally, the device only starts actively listening in and making a note of what it hears after it has heard wake words, such as “Ok, Google” or “Hey, Google,” for privacy reasons. Prior to waking, it's constantly listening out for those words, but is not supposed to keep a record of what it hears.

Yet punters noticed their Google Homes had been recording random sounds, without any wake word uttered, when they started receiving notifications on their phone that showed the device had heard things like a smoke alarm beeping, or glass breaking in their homes – all without their approval.

Google said the feature had been accidentally turned on during a recent software update, and it has now been switched off, Protocol reported. It may be that this feature is or was intended to be used for home security at some point: imagine the assistant waking up whenever it hears a break in, for instance. Google just bought a $450m, or 6.6 per cent, stake in anti-burglary giant ADT, funnily enough.

Related:
How to Stop Your Google Home From Recording All Your Conversations - How-To Geek
Google's privacy controls on recordings change. What that means for your Google Home - CNET
Your Google Home smart speaker might have been listening to more than you thought - Daily Express

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Response to klook (Original post)

Mon Aug 10, 2020, 03:44 PM

1. It is not technically necessary for the device to record anything to send you a text

saying that it heard a smoke alarm.

I'm not saying it's okay for it to be doing so without you giving it permission, to be clear.

But these texts are not de-facto proof that 'zomg everything you say is being recorded!!!!11!'

It literally requires nothing that's any different from the device listening for you to say 'Ok Google'. It's just a different 'trigger' to take an action. No recording necessary.

Even if it sends you a recording of the smoke alarm going off, that doesn't mean it's recording when no smoke alarm is going off.

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Response to mr_lebowski (Reply #1)

Mon Aug 10, 2020, 04:31 PM

5. You're correct - I used the headline as posted on The Register

The source article, posted on Protocol, is titled "Google's secret home security superpower: Your smart speaker with its always-on mics" with the subtitle Google speakers are listening to more than just voice commands. Using them for home security could supercharge Google's $450 million ADT deal.

So the gist is that the device is listening not only for voice commands, but for other ambient noises as well.

This has been reversed, according to a statement from Google, as reported in The Independent.

From the Independent article:
Although the feature provides greater security it is a trade off for less privacy. Google has adamantly pushed that the only way its smart speaker will listen to users is via its wake word.

The use of ambient monitoring for other reasons could lead to questions about what else Google will request to monitor in the future – especially since all that stands in the way of a users’ acquiescence is a privacy policy that few will ever read.

Google is not the only company with this feature; Amazon’s Echo speakers added a feature like this in 2018 called Alexa Guard.

I realize many (most?) people who buy a smart speaker don't give a crap what it listens to (or even records), but it creeps me out. Which is why I don't have one.

https://scienceline.org/2018/04/smart-speaker-records-often-think/

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Response to klook (Reply #5)

Mon Aug 10, 2020, 09:30 PM

7. They DEFINITELY screwed up if this 'feature' is turned on w/o telling people

... whether intentional or not it's a cock-up. It's just worse if they did it on purpose.

But the texts being sent are not proof that everything you do is being recorded.

It is DEFINITELY 'listening' at all times, however, obviously. It has to be ... unless there's a way you can turn off the activate by voice command and make it so you have to press a button to turn it on or the like.

Which I don't know, cause I don't have one either

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Response to klook (Original post)

Mon Aug 10, 2020, 03:45 PM

2. google tracks everything u do with your phone, every time you even touch it (android) nt

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Response to msongs (Reply #2)

Mon Aug 10, 2020, 04:35 PM

6. You can customize smart phone settings to address some of the concerns

as described in this article:
https://www.consumerreports.org/privacy/how-to-protect-your-privacy-on-your-smartphone/

I'm not an Android user, so I'm not familiar with the settings in that ecosystem.

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Response to klook (Original post)

Mon Aug 10, 2020, 03:56 PM

3. Shocked. Shocked, I tell you.

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Response to klook (Original post)

Mon Aug 10, 2020, 04:22 PM

4. I don't have anything in my home that responds to my voice,

except cats, and they only respond when it suits them.

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