Google has recently admitted to installing listening devices in the home alarm system, Nest Guard, without informing its customers.
This device is a part of Google’s Nest alarm system starter pack, embedded with motion sensors, and a keypad to set up personalized home security.
It became apparent earlier in the month when the company announced that the Nest Guard will soon receive Google-Assistant and voice-based controls.
The surprising part of that announcement was that, like all Google devices, in order to use Google-Assistant, there must be an embedded speaker and listening chip. Google never listed a microphone as part of the specifications for the Nest Guard. Users were totally ignorant of it.
A spokesperson for the company said that the microphone was never intended to be a secret. He noted that the omission was done out of error on the company’s part. However, he disclosed that the microphone had never been turned on, and will only be activated when the user enables the feature.
The spokesperson also noted that Nest Guard had the microphone for future purposes, like detection of broken glass.
In reaction to this, the Director of Big Brother Watch – a UK-based privacy campaign group, Silkie Carlo expressed her displeasure. She noted that Google’s initial non-disclosure appears to be deceptive rather than just a mistake, which may put the company in a bad light in the area of public trust.
A lot of concerned users share Carlo’s sentiments because the Nest Guard had been in homes since 2017. For Google not to have listed a microphone in its specification until now is stoking more firewood into the flames of conspiracy theories.
Only last month, a hacker infiltrated into a Nest Cam in a home in San Francisco. The hacker had reportedly convinced the family that the US was under a nuclear attack from North Korea. Another hacker had told a couple that he’d kidnap their child.
Google had been previously served a $57 million fine for violating the EU’s Data Protecting Regulation.