Google hardware products are displayed during a launch event in San Francisco, California, U.S. October 4, 2017
Google hardware products are displayed during a launch event in San Francisco, California, U.S. October 4, 2017

Google Home Mini secretly recorded everything its owner said

It was listening to its user even when it shouldn't have been

Aatif Sulleyman
Wednesday 11 October 2017 10:36

Google’s new Home Mini voice assistant has been spying on some of its users, due to a “phantom” issue.

The device is designed to respond to your questions, but only after you say “Okay Google” or “Hey Google”, or tap and hold a touch panel on it.

However, an early release model has been found to be recording its owner all the time, without him realising.

Android Police’s Artem Russakovskii, who received a Google Home Mini at the company’s recent Pixel launch event and kept it in his bathroom, reported the extremely serious issue to Google last week.

“It was waking up thousands of times a day, recording, then sending those recordings to Google,” he said. “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 respond to the report, sending an engineer to examine the unit right away, and admitting that there was a major problem with it. It also revealed that this wasn’t a unique case.

The company said in a statement: “The Google Home team is aware of an issue impacting a small number of Google Home Mini devices that could cause the touch control mechanism to behave incorrectly. We immediately rolled out a software update on October 7 to mitigate the issue.”

Google told Android Police that the Home Mini’s touch panel had been registering “phantom” touches, which caused it to keep activating and recording everything going on around it.

The software update rolled out by the company fixes the issue by instructing all Home Minis to ignore the touch functionality.

“We take user privacy very seriously,” it added. “We've removed any activity/queries that were created by long pressing the top of a Google Home Mini between October 4 and October 7, when the software update was rolled out.

“That information will no longer be listed on your My Activity page”

My Activity is an extremely intriguing and slightly concerning page that shows everything Google knows about you.

The information has been collected from all of Google's products, including Chrome, Android and Maps, and you can sort through it and delete things you don't want the company to remember.

The Home Mini, a miniature version of Google Home, the company’s smart voice assistant, will come out on 19 October, costing £49.

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