Home assistants like Amazon Echo devices or Google Home devices are the hot market segment right now with everyone rolling out new variants of their devices and constantly adding new features. At their October 4th event, Google launched two new Google Home devices, the Google Home Mini and the Google Home Max, to join the original Google Home. For some people though, these devices appear to be nothing other than a way to spy on consumer’s every move when they think they are in the privacy of their own home despite claims that they only “listen” when activated via a trigger word. Those suspicious of their devices seemed to have their claims confirmed after it was revealed some Google Home Mini devices were listening 24/7. Google responded to the issue by naming it a hardware issue and they have rolled out a fix for the affected units.
According to testing on a Google Home Mini unit that was provided at Google’s event last week, the unit was listening, recording and submitting to Google virtually everything it was hearing throughout the day, whether the hotword was used or not. Besides unusual activity being witnessed as the Home Mini struggled to figure out what it should be doing, the user examining the unit reviewed the My Activity page for their account to discover all the false commands that were being submitted.
After extensive testing and contacting Google about the problem, the company determined the actual problem had to do with the touch input option that is available on the Home Mini. For their latest offering, Google included an option to tap on the top of the Home Mini to trigger the Google Assistant. Apparently the unit was registering phantom touches which was keeping the Google Assistant in a state of constantly listening.
To remedy the situation, Google has issued an update that disables the touch input. At this time it is unclear what the company may do to restore this functionality, especially since it was one of the unique selling points for the device.
Does this incident, even if attributed to an unintentional hardware problem, change your views about possibly investing in a home assistant device?