Google Addresses Hidden Microphone in Nest Secure

Google is facing public admonishment after consumers found out about a microphone in Nest Secure that wasn’t mentioned in technical specifications. Earlier in the month, Google announced that they were updating Nest Secure with Google Assistant, essentially making turning the Nest Guard into a Google Home. The update allows users to vocally command their Nest Secure system. However, users had not been made aware of the microphone built into Nest Secure, which wasn’t advertised.

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The Nest Guard

In an interview with Business Insider, a Google spokesperson said that the company made a mistake in not alerting consumers of the microphone in the Nest Guard.

“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,”

the spokesperson said. Google has never turned the microphones on before, and they are only activated when enabled by users, according to Google, who is denying any spying on users. The original intention of the microphone was to add glass break detection capability with future updates, the spokesperson said.

Many users see the undisclosed microphone as a security concern, especially relevant considering Google’s previous issues with privacy. Last summer, research from KrebsOnSecurity found leaks in Google Home and Chromecasts that revealed users’ location data. The attack worked by first asking the device for a list of the wireless networks nearby, then comparing that list to geolocation lookup services, according to Tripwire security researcher Chris Young. “An attacker can be completely remote as long as they can get the victim to open a link while connected to the same Wi-Fi or wired network as a Google Chromecast or Home device,” said Young. The problem was particularly concerning as Google is know for its precise geolocation services, locating users within a few feet. Whether these security issues will greatly affect Google as a company remains to be seen.

Aliza Vigderman

Aliza Vigderman

Aliza is a journalist living in Brooklyn, New York. Throughout her career, her work has spanned many intersections within the tech industry. At SquareFoot, a New York-based real estate technology company, she wrote about the ways in which technology has changed the real estate industry, as well as the challenges that business owners face when they want to invest in property. At Degreed.com, an education technology website, Aliza created digital content for lifelong learners, exploring the ways in which technology has democratized education. Additionally, she has written articles for The Huffington Post as well as her own content on Medium, the online publishing platform. Aliza’s love of journalism and research stems from the excellent Journalism program at Brandeis University. At Brandeis, Aliza interned as a research assistant at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, a non-profit “news room without walls”. There, Aliza was paired with an investigative journalist and used academic databases to obtain data on everything from the suicide rates in Bhutan to local Boston court cases. Her last position was as an account executive at Yelp, educating business owners on the power of technology to increase revenue. Throughout, however, her heart remained with tech journalism, and she’s thrilled to be writing for Security Baron. When she’s not keeping afloat of the latest tech trends, Aliza likes to cook, read, and write. A former high school “Class Clown,” Aliza has completed two feature-length screenplays, a pilot, and countless comedic sketches. On her days off you can find her relaxing in Prospect Park, trying the latest flavors at Ample Hills Ice Cream, and spending time with friends and family.

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