Google’s new Home Mini speakers were accidentally spying on people

Google recently announced two new speakers to take on Amazon Echo’s alternative models, but the mini version had some serious issues.

Last week Google revealed that Google Home was becoming a family, adding two new speakers to their Home range. The Google Mini offers a cheap, portable alternative for simple use, whilst the Google Home Max brings next level sound quality to the device.

It all looked great, until Google sent some review versions of the Mini out. As reviewers got familiar with the home assistant and speaker, some noticed an issue – the Home Mini was recording all the time, without being activated by any hot words. Not just a malfunction, this was an incredible breach of privacy and one of the main concerns when it comes to having an internet connected microphone in the house.

One reviewer commented: “Several days passed without me noticing anything wrong. In the meantime, as it turns out, the Mini was behaving very differently from all the other Homes and Echos in my home – it was waking up thousands of times a day, recording, then sending those recordings to Google.”

Due to its size the Home Mini’s visual cues are very subtle, flashing it’s four small lights on top to notify that it’s recording with no audio notification. As such many of these reviewers didn’t realise that as they were taking breaks from reviewing the device it would continue to record audio.

Fortunately Google are now well aware of the issue and have tackled it with frantic enthusiasm. They even sent someone to pick up one of the Google Home Mini’s in person. So it seems this was almost definitely an accidental malfunction and not Google’s next step towards a Big Brother state.

Google issued a statement, saying: “We have learned of an issue impacting a small number of Google Home Minis that could cause the touch mechanism to behave incorrectly. We are rolling out a software update today that should address the issue.”

It seems to be a minority of the review copies of the Google Home Mini that were affected thankfully. It may affect some of the early reviews but at least Google have time before its official launch to make sure this doesn’t happen again, (or that we don’t know it’s happening…).

Head of Social Media and Marketing, RouteNote

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