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Published: Fri, October 13, 2017
Research | By Jennifer Evans

Google Home Mini Caught Spying

Google Home Mini Caught Spying

But when the home speaker is Google's new Home Mini, all sorts of red flags go up. The small device is an always-listening smart assistant and some early shipments of the Google Home Mini came with a defect that realized our worst fear with always-listening devices. Google responded by issuing a patch that disabled the touch panel's functionality.

Google's recently unveiled Google Home Mini speakers have landed into trouble, before even hitting the sales shelves. Soon after, Android Police's Artem Russakovskii, who was one of the reporters who received a test unit, discovered that his device was turning on by itself, recording his conversations, and uploading them to Google. If users don't want to bother with extending a greeting to a machine, they can also just press a button on top of the Mini and then voice the command or question.

Apparently, the review unit handed over to Russakovskii was malfunctioning on the touch sensor level. On the Mini, it's holding your finger down on the top of it. However, the alarming part in this whole snooping episode is that the Home Mini didn't make any noise while recording the sounds.

"It was waking up thousands of times a day, recording, then sending those recordings to Google", he said. "We are rolling out a software update today that should address the issue".

Google acknowledged the issue on a support page, saying, "The Google Home team is aware of an issue impacting a small number of Google Home Mini devices that could cause the touch-control mechanism to behave incorrectly".

The video below shows the faulty Google Home Mini in action and offers you an idea of how you can easily see if the speaker is recording everything: The lights turn on to tell you the speaker is active. "We've removed any activity/queries that were created by long pressing the top of a Google Home Mini between October 4 and October 7, when the software update was rolled out".

The issue prevailed over the few initial units of Google Home Mini, including the ones that were distributed as review units.

Before you freak out, you should know that smart speakers have to send your voice queries to cloud servers to return responses. Not only because the speaker recorded everything it could hear, but also because this incident indicates that Google's hardware isn't ideal, no matter what the company told us during last week's press event. And issues like these trigger the notion further.

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