Tech

Help! My Google Home Mini is Listening to Me!

As many as 4,000 Google Home Mini devices that were handed out at last week’s Made By Google events may be flawed. They may actually be recording much more than just what is preceded by “Hey Google.”

Update to this story Oct. 13 – We’ve received word from Google, themselves, with the below statement. Rest assured your Google Home Mini is perfectly safe and secure! 

“We take user privacy and product quality concerns very seriously. Although we only received a few reports of this issue, we want people to have complete peace of mind while using Google Home Mini. We have made the decision to permanently remove all top touch functionality on the Google Home Mini. As before, the best way to control and activate Google Home Mini is through voice, by saying “Ok Google” or “Hey Google,” which is already how most people engage with our Google Home products. You can still adjust the volume by using the touch control on the side of the device.”

Original story: 

I’m going to start by saying I love my Google Home. It’s been a fun little device that has helped me with timers, playing music, adding things to my shopping list, customizing my living room lights and answering questions when my partner and I have really serious arguments about certain actors.

Having my partner agree to having the Google Home device in our home has been a struggle, he’s incredibly against having a device that is constantly listening for you to say “Hey Google.” But, he’s reluctantly agreed to keeping the device in our home. He’s extremely reluctant – usually when I head out of town, I come home to find it unplugged.

Last week, I had the pleasure of being invited to one of Made By Google’s pop-up events here in Toronto where they announced all the new products coming from Google this year. And I left with my very own Google Home Mini! Imagine how excited my partner was to now have TWO in our home…

Oh no… he was RIGHT?!

This morning, I was out and about when I received an email that came across the G&B newsroom with this new report. Evidently, approximately 4,000 devices that were handed out at the Made By Google pop-up events last week have been recording ALL audio, not just what was prompted by the required “Hey Google” or “Ok Google.”

How exactly am I going to explain that I was wrong?

Artem Russakovskii, of Android Police received one of these devices at an event, and installed it at home (in his bathroom, no less.) He noticed that the device was activating a lot more than it should, so he logged into the Google Home app right away.

Google Home’s My Activity Portal

To give you a background, when you have a Google Home device, there’s an app where you customize your device. Within the app, there’s a portal called “My Activity.” Here, it tracks everything you do through the Google Home, with recorded transcripts. So, when I say, “Hey Google, set a timer for 20 minutes,” it records that event and I can see it listed here.

Russakovskii opened his My Activity portal and saw thousands of audio events tracked, without his knowledge – WITH recorded transcripts. Obviously, he contacted Google PR immediately to start an investigation. It turns out that there was a glitch in the device’s “touch panel”, which allows you to activate the device without the verbal cue. The device was activating through what they’re calling “phantom touch events”, causing it to turn on and record.

Right, so now we’ve got a wire-tapping ghost on our hands?

If you want to read more about what happened, make sure to check out the article here.

In case you were worried about me…

The first thing I did when I got home was check my Google Home My Activity portal. It’s all good, they haven’t been recording me. Everything that’s supposed to be there is what’s there – mostly just setting timers and playing music.

Leave a Comment