Undesirable Bug On Google Home Mini Turned It Into A Surveillance Device

Google's Home Mini needed a software patch to stop some of them from recording everything

Google launched the Home Mini, along with a raft of new products, at an official unveiling event last week.

Google immediately responded, taking away his Home Mini and giving him 2 in exchange. He says the company replied to his initial e-mail within 10 minutes and issued a band-aid patch the day after his report.

Android Police founder Artem Russakovskii first uncovered the bug, which relates to the long-press gesture function built into the Home Mini. For some folks, this might not be a big deal, but all of the audio it records is sent out to Google servers. The Mini has a touch-sensitive surface, and, to issue a command, you can either say "OK Google" or long press on the top.

While this in itself is a fairly minor inconvenience, it has major implications for the privacy of users and could, in theory, let Google monitor everything that is said in your home. We are rolling out a software update today that should address the issue.

We'll bet Google is rushing to fix the issue before the device starts shipping on October 19th.

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The cause of the problem was what Google calls "phantom touches" where the device constantly thinks it has been triggered by physical input. But this appears not to be the case with the Home Mini, meaning its accidental data harvesting was rather large breach of privacy. So far so good, except - as he only discovered days later - the Mini was recording "thousands of times a day" and sending those recordings to Google. The bug won't impact the Google Home Max, as it isn't launching until December.

According to a Google Support page that went live yesterday just as this information dropped, Google claims to have fixed everything already. As it turns out, the touch mechanism in a small number of units were behaving incorrectly.

Like the company's other voice-activated assistants, the Google Home Mini also responds to keywords like "OK, Google" or "Hey, Google".

If you're unsure why a self-activating Home Mini meant Russakovskii's bathroom activity was recorded: everything you say to Google Assistant across the company's devices is recorded and stored in Google's servers, unless you explicitly disable it in My Activity controls. The devices basically act as if someone is long-pressing the button to activate Assistant all the time, so they are recording nearly constantly.

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