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Google's mini smart speaker goes into 'Terminator mode'

12 October 2017, 12:58 | Gina Pena

Google just killed a Home Mini feature that's caused some speakers to spy

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

The Home Mini is set to launch on October 19 and ahead of that official launch, as Google and other manufacturers normally do, the device was placed in the hands of reviewers around the globe. The Home Mini units gave no indication they were recording beyond silently flashing their four display lights - a notification that you'd only notice if you were looking directly at the device. He noticed that his Google Home Mini was active and recording sound throughout the day, not only when he uttered the "OK, Google" keyword.

This would appear to remove a feature from the Home Mini as well as stop units affected by the problem from being accidental home snoopers.

A software bug in Google's Home Mini smart speaker left the device recording everything, nearly constantly, and transmitting those recordings to Google's servers. The idea is that you can say "OK Google" or "Hey Google" whenever you're near the device to begin issuing commands to smart home devices and asking questions. However, the incident should raise concerns for privacy-conscious users, and businesses that may be considering using these kinds of products. The company says on a support page that it also "removed any activity/queries that were created by long pressing the top of a Google Home Mini between October 4 and October 7". The software update has now apparently stopped the touch panel from working. Google's Home Max smart speaker is not affected by the software flaw at all. After swapping the device with Google, Google engineers determined that Russakovskii's Home Mini had a defective touch panel that was registering "phantom" touch events.

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'It was waking up, recording, then sending those recordings to Google.

There, clear as day, were thousands of items, each with a play button and a timestamp - recordings.

It turns out that some Google Home Minis, the smart speakers that the company released in early October, were nearly continuously recording audio from users' homes. It issued a software patch to fix the behavior, issuing this response: "We have learned of an issue impacting a small number of Google Home Minis that could cause the touch mechanism to behave incorrectly". The software fix prevents the activation of the speaker with a touch, which was a feature meant to offer options for activation.

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