Well here’s a fun little nightmare before you head to bed.
Google, in an attempt to compete with Amazon’s Alexa/Dot and Apple’s Siri, developed a voice assistant speaker that was scheduled to go on sale yesterday. They sent test units around to reporters before the speakers hit shelves.
One of those reporters discovered that the $50 mini speaker was surreptitiously turning itself on, recording him, and then uploading audio files to Google servers without his knowledge or consent.
Artem Russakovskii, a reporter with Android Police who received a test unit, discovered that his device was turning on by itself, recording his conversations, and uploading them to Google.
Normally there are two ways to interact with Google’s smart speakers, including the Mini. You can say the words “OK Google” followed by a command such as “play ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.'” Alternatively, you can press the button on the top of the devices before saying a command.
But Russakovskii discovered that his Mini was listening in on him even when he hadn’t pressed the device’s button or said “OK Google.” When he checked his personal activity page on Google, the site that shows users’ interactions with the search giant’s services and the data it collects on users, he found sound files that had been uploaded to Google’s servers from the Mini without his consent.
Google responded to Russakovskii’s claim with a statement indicating that the machine he received was faulty. The device comes equipped with a button on top that users can manually push to activate the record function. Google says that button was glitchy on some of the test speakers, including Russakovskii’s. They have since rolled out a software update that disables the button on all machines permanently.
This disturbing tidbit comes at a time when Google is poised to release a camera, Google Clips, that utilizes a similar artificial intelligence platform as the one churning inside the haunted mini speaker. The camera, left in a stationary position, will decide what to take pictures of.
Here’s a question: if a user isn’t a tech savvy reporter, would they ever know they were being recorded or photographed? Google, already on the hot seat for rumors they digitally spy by tracking and retaining users’ web searches, has some work to do if they want the public to trust their products enough to put them in their homes.