Your Google Home Speaker Could Be Recording You
September 29, 2020
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Your Google Home speaker may have been recording sounds around your house without your permission or authorization, it was revealed recently. Google 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 just like Amazon's devices respond to "Alexa" and Apple's devices respond to "Siri". Prior to waking, Google's speaker is constantly listening out for those words, but is not supposed to keep a record of what it hears.
This was discovered when some people noticed their Google Homes had been recording random sounds, without any wake phrases made, 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. 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 or medical emergency, for instance. This could have benefits and even save lives if implemented well and the person owning the device knows about it. But it could compromise peoples' privacy drastically if it's riddled with bugs and people don't understand how to use it.
Trusting these big corporations with your personal data is getting harder and harder when they even confuse themselves. Was this really an accident? With their privacy record, you have to wonder about that! At this point, your best bet to stay as private as possible is to not use those services. If you have to use them, be very careful about the privacy settings you apply. Many people never even check them.
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