Google speakers recorded sounds "without users knowing", company admits

Rob Waugh
·Contributor
·2 mins read
Smart home speaker. Smart home AI device with man reading book in background
Google Home speakers were recording users when they were not meant to. (Getty)

Google has admitted that its Home speakers were recording users even when they hadn’t said “wake words” such as “OK Google”, due to an error this year.

For privacy reasons, the devices normally don’t listen until they hear the “wake words” designed into them – and are supposed not to record until that point, Protocol reported.

But users on Reddit started to get notifications when their Google Home devices had recorded events such as glass breaking, The Register reported.

The alerts were normally offered only to users who subscribe to the Nest Aware home security service.

Google said the feature had been accidentally turned on due to a software update.

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A Google spokesperson told Yahoo News UK, “We are aware of an issue that inadvertently enabled sound detection alerts for sounds like smoke alarms or glass breaking on speakers that are not part of a Nest Aware subscription.

“The issue was caused by a recent software update and only impacted a subset of Google Home, Google Home Mini, and Google Home Max speakers.

“We have since rolled out a fix that will automatically disable sound detection on devices that are not part of Nest Aware.”

Google announced its subscription Nest Aware service in May.

The company said in a blog post: "Your Nest speakers and displays will notify you if a critical sound is detected, like a smoke alarm or glass breaking, by sending an alert to the Home app.

"From there, you can hear an audio clip or listen live within the Home app to confirm the alarm."

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Google this month bought a 6.6% stake in home security firm ADT, betting on the home security company’s strong customer base and an army of technicians to drive sales of its Nest devices.

ADT said the two companies would work on ways to package popular Google products like Home Mini, Nest Thermostat and Nest Wifi with ADT’s strength in installation and maintenance.

“Later this year, we will begin integrating Google devices and make them available for installations to our customers,” ADT’s CEO Jim DeVries told Reuters.

“We will exclusively support Nest products,” DeVries said, adding that the companies will build products together and start rolling them out next year.

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