Google has permanently disabled a button on its Google Home Mini smart speaker ahead of launch, after the device was discovered listening in on users' conversations without consent.
This issue was discovered by Android Police, while a reviewer was testing the device ahead of its launch next week. The reviewer was able to locate files on Google's My Activity portal that turned out to be recordings and transcripts from points when the device was presumed to be inactive.
According to Google, the problem was caused by a fault with the touch button atop the Home Mini , which could be used to activate the device without saying 'Ok Google' out loud. However, in some cases the button would activate on its own, causing the Trigger to listen, waiting for a command.
Google's solution to this problem – which does genuinely seem to be an accident, rather than a calculated attempt to spy on users – is just to disable the button entirely through a software update.
"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," Google said in a statement. "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."
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