Ah, boss? I just overheard someone say they spotted the microphone!

Subject: General Tech | February 20, 2019 - 12:34 PM |
Tagged: nest, google, alphabet, iot

You may recall a news story last summer, about USB fans which were handed out to journalists that showed how oblivious many people are when it comes to security.  The recent news about the microphone in Google's Nest Secure shows that the lesson still has not been learned, though there is certainly an extra level to this particular story.  Google recently announced that they would be activating the microphone embedded in the Nest Secure, something which they completely neglected to document that their home security system contained.

The Nest Secure consists of several sensors to detect a window or door opening, as well as a base with a speaker to sound alerts and a keypad to verify the user.  You would not reasonably expect such a thing to contain a microphone, let alone an undocumented one.   Google insists that they simply forgot to include it in the parts list and that this is all just an innocent misunderstanding.  They are also asking you to believe that the microphone has never been enabled and that there is no possible way that it might have been secretly recording conversations. 

As a point in Google's favour Ars Technica does point out that every other product Google sells has a microphone in it, and so it would be reasonable to suspect one was present in the Nest.   In a world where your TV spies on you, an update can brick your shoes and you can buy smart locks that will ensure you will never be able to go home again, just to mention a few, having your security system spying on you does not seem too far fetched.

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“The on-device microphone was never intended to be a secret and should have been listed in the tech specs. That was an error on our part.” According to the company, "the microphone has never been on and is only activated when users specifically enable the option.”

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Source: Ars Technica

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February 20, 2019 | 01:46 PM - Posted by ipkh

It is probably there for glass break detection. N oui t sure why they feel the need to use it for anything else.

February 20, 2019 | 04:21 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

This was my first thought as well. Alexa/Echo devices also have this feature that you can turn on.

February 20, 2019 | 01:51 PM - Posted by M (not verified)

this is how all Democracy and the shadow of freedom we still have DIES, inch-by-inch by the ever increasing surveillance-state. All these too-big-to-fail companies need to be broken up, giving so much power to any of them is madness. Anyone really believe they aren't going to collude with the government, have these devices listen for "key words" - all in the name of "security" of course! How long till the black-clad stormtroopers are breaking in doors because these "devices" heard the particular TERRORIST "key words" that triggered the approved (WARRANT-LESS) action.

February 20, 2019 | 04:32 PM - Posted by Randy (not verified)

Thats a pretty glaring "accidental" omission from tech specs.

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