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.
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.