Google Home

Google Admits Some Smart Speakers Mistakenly Recorded People Without Wake Word Activation

Google Home smart speakers this year recorded people nearby even without wake word activation, according to a Protocol report and confirmed by Voicebot. Google has admitted that a software error is responsible for the inadvertent recordings, although the company claims it only affected a small number of devices and that it has cleared up the problem.

Unexpected Audio

The issue first came to light on Reddit, when a user shared that they were getting unexpected notifications from Google Home devices about glass breaking and related events. Recording glass breaking or smoke alarms is a normal part of the Nest Aware home security service, but the people affected by the bug are not subscribed to Nest Aware. Google has said the feature was mistakenly activated because of a software update, but that it has resolved the problem, and devices that are not connected to Nest Aware account will no longer surprise people by listening for those sounds.

Though Google didn’t give a timeline of the glitch, it’s reasonable to think it is referring to the revamp in May of Nest Aware subscription service. The update included a simplified price structure and new features. Most relevantly, the update enabled Google smart devices to continually examine sounds around them for anything problematic and sends text alerts to owners and anyone they add to their alert list when it hears something suspicious. Those alerts are very much like the ones reported on Reddit and by Voicebot’s source.

Secure Time

Software errors like this happen pretty much any time there is an update, but there’s a striking timing coincidence in when people spotted this particular mistake. Just last week, Google announced a $450 million investment into home security provider ADT. The money comes with a partnership between the two companies tath will combine ADT and Google Nest smart home devices into a unified technical and business relationship. ADT will start selling Google Nest products, and the companies are each investing $150 million into creating and eventually selling the next iteration of developing, marketing, and training people to sell their combination of services. The shared research into a shared line of security technology with ADT’s security monitoring operating through the Nest system. The ADT deal, combined with native support for new sensors and a closer connection between Google Assistant and Nest devices, places Google in a very advantageous position in the smart home space. Of course, that’s contingent on stopping or limiting any future glitches that may make people wary about installing Google security devices.


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