Google Home Mini Caught Spying on Users

Updated 10:12 am ET with comment from Google

Google Home Mini, the puck-like smart home device from the Alphabet-owned company, has a big problem.

Credit: Tom's Guide

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Some Google Home Mini units have been secretly recording just about every sound they hear and transmitting all of that information back to Google. While it's unclear what happens to the recordings once they land at Google, the obvious privacy implications are enough to scare just about anyone.

According to Android Police, which earlier discovered the problem, Google Home Mini would randomly start recording everything going on in the room at a given time. And it appears that the problem is a glitch that causes affected units to think that they should be recording when they should not.

Google Home Mini, which was unveiled at the company's press event last week, is designed to wake when someone says "Hey Google" or "OK Google." You can also hold your finger down on the device and all the while, Google Home Mini will record what it hears.

From there, the recording is sent to Google's cloud servers, where the query can be interpreted. A response is then worked up and sent back. In most cases, that works just fine. However, it appears that the affected Google Home Mini units thought they were being pressed and should be recording everything.

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For its part, Google has already acknowledged the problem and said that it's "impacting a small number of Google Home Mini devices that could cause the touch mechanism to behave incorrectly." An update has been released, but in the process, has killed the touch function. So, in order to query Google Home Mini, you'll need to use the wake words; the touch feature does not work.

Google supplied the following statement to Tom's Guide:

"Thanks for reaching out, we have learned of an issue impacting a small number of Google Home Minis that could cause the touch mechanism to behave incorrectly. We are rolling out a software update today that should address the issue. If users are having any additional issues, they should feel free to contact Google Support at 1-855-971-9121."

Still, Google said that Home Mini units that have been pre-ordered and will be released on Oct. 19 won't suffer from the problem and therefore won't lose the touch activation. Instead, Google said the units it prepared for reviewers and at its Made By Google event last week were the only devices affected.

Don Reisinger is CEO and founder of D2 Tech Agency. A communications strategist, consultant, and copywriter, Don has also written for many leading technology and business publications including CNET, Fortune Magazine, The New York Times, Forbes, Computerworld, Digital Trends, TechCrunch and Slashgear. He has also written for Tom's Guide for many years, contributing hundreds of articles on everything from phones to games to streaming and smart home.