Google Forgot to Disclose Built-In Mic on Nest

Oh, well isn't THAT convenient Google. This Nest Secure came out in November 2017. It really took them 15 months to discover this?

Google Says Unlisted, Built-In Microphone on Nest Devices Wasn't Supposed to Be 'Secret'

Victoria Song

Today 10:55am

It’s barely two months into 2019, but Nest has already had a bit of a year. After somehacking scaresinvolving its line of home security cameras, Nest’s latest headache involves its modular Nest Secure security system. More specifically, a microphone that customers weren’t aware was included in the base device. And while Google admits it messed up, it’s definitely not convincing users the company has their best interest at heart.

Google,which owns Nest, announced earlier this month it was addingGoogle Assistant support for the Nest Guard—one of three products that make up its Nest Secure system. Overall, you’d think that’s a helpful feature but Google’s failure to disclose the Guard hub had a built-in microphone detracts from any benefit and has led to plenty of criticism of thecompany’sintentonTwitter.

WhenNest Securewas announced back in 2017, the microphone was suspiciously absent from any tech specs for the product. And while you could technically issue voice commands to enable and disable the alarm, it required owners to have a separate Google Home device.

“The on-device microphone was never intended to be a secret and should have been listed in the tech specs,” a Google spokesperson told Gizmodo. “That was an error on our part.”

So have Nest Secure owners been unwittingly spied on all this time? Google says no. “The microphone has never been on and is only activated when users specifically enable the option.”

As for why the microphone was included in the first place, Google said it’s common for security systems to use microphones for features that rely on picking up different sounds. It also said the company “included the mic on the device so that [it] can potentially offer additional features to our users in the future, such as the ability to detect broken glass.”

All of that makes sense, but it’s unsettling in the wake of Nest’s recent privacy and security issues. A California family recently received false warnings through their Nest camera thatNorth Korean missiles were about to strike, while last year, a woman was told through her cam that a man was going tokidnap her baby.


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