Google says failure to disclose mic in Nest Guard was an 'error'


The tech giant has said sorry to users of its Nest Secure alarm system, after admitting the presence of a microphone in the home security device had not been disclosed.

On Tuesday, a Google spokesperson told Business Insider the company had made an "error".

Including a microphone on a Nest device without informing users adds to these misgivings - even if it was an "error".

The spokesperson also mentioned that the on-device microphone was never on and is only activated when users specifically enable the option.

Google shared a mea culpa with Business Insider about this, telling the publication that "The on-device microphone was never meant to be a secret and should have been listed in the tech specs". The company said sound sensing devices are common in security systems.

The microphone was included to leave the door open for additional features to be added to the technology, Google said, like the ability to detect broken glass. "That was an error on our part". The problem? Users were never told a microphone existed. Many of our worries about smart home devices appear to be proving true. The unit monitors the user's home, sending alerts if anything is amiss.

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On February 4, Google described Google Assistant on Nest Guard as an opt-in feature.

In its defense, Google says that the Assistant never listens in without being prompted by the wake phrase ("OK Google").

At a time when tech companies are being scrutinized for their privacy lapses, not telling your buyers that their device has a mic is pretty much asking for trouble.

Naturally, Google caused a stir when it announced earlier this month that owners could use their Nest Secure hub to ask Google Assistant questions like "activate my alarm", "do I need an umbrella today?," or "are you spying on my every move?". "Google should be held to account for wrongly advertising this product".

Google bought Nest - which was initially known for its smart thermostat device - back in 2014 for $3.2 billion.

It can book a hair appointment and reserve a table for you at your favorite restaurant, among other things.