Google updates Home Mini to address major privacy bug


For example, Android Police founder Artem Russakovskii discovered a hardware defect in the upcoming Google Home Mini that caused the device to record nearly all nearby audio and upload it directly to Google.

Instead, said touch panel "behaved incorrectly", registering "phantom" presses, and not only listening to everything that went down around the faulty Google Home Mini unit, but constantly recording audio, which was then stored on the company's servers.

"My Google Home Mini was inadvertently spying on me 24/7 due to a hardware flaw", he wrote.

When he noticed the Home Mini would constantly interrupt a show he was watching on a TV close by, looking to answer queries that were not there, Russakovskii checked Google's My Activity portal for Assistant-specific queries. However, there's also a touch-sensitive button on the top that can initiate a voice command, and this is apparently the problem.

There, clear as day, were thousands of items, each with a play button and a timestamp - recordings. The Home Mini is set to launch on October 19 and ahead of that official launch, as Google and other manufacturers normally do, the device was placed in the hands of reviewers around the globe.

Normally, the microphones in the speakers are supposed to activate only when a user says a certain phrase like "Hey Google". A firmware update removed the long press activation feature.

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Upon reporting the issue to Google, the company discovered the speaker's touch control sensor was malfunctioning. As a result, Google has rolled out a software patch that deactivates the touch panel entirely.

"We take user privacy very seriously".

Google says pre-ordered Home Mini purchases are not affected and that it has completed the roll out of new firmware. Disabling touch control isn't a permanent solution, but it was a fast one.

Some Google Home Minis have been found to activate at random times and transmit the audio to Google's servers.

With security and privacy at the forefront of everyone's minds these days, especially with products that are capable of recording your conversation, this is obviously not the type of bug that Google wants right before a product launch.

The number and variety of enterprise IoT initiatives are growing, but Gartner says most businesses are still holding back.