After the hacking fiasco a few weeks ago, Nest users have been more on edge about their security devices than ever before. The recent discovery of a built-in, hidden microphone on the Nest Guard, part of the Nest Secure security system, has only served to further exacerbate those concerns.
Alphabet Inc’s Google said on February 20 it had made an “error” in not disclosing that its Nest Secure home security system had a built-in microphone in its devices.
Consumers might never have known the microphone existed had Google not announced support for Google Assistant on the Nest Secure. This sounds like a great addition, except for one little problem: users didn’t know their Nest Secure had a microphone. None of the product documentation disclosed the existence of the microphone, nor did any of the packaging.
Earlier this month, Google said Nest Secure would be getting an update and users could now enable its virtual assistant technology Google Assistant on Nest Guard.
A microphone built into its Nest Guard alarm/motion sensor/keypad wasn’t supposed to be a secret, Google said after announcing Google Assistant support for the Nest Secure system but the revelation that Google Assistant could be used with its Nest home security and alarm system security was a surprise.
“The on-device microphone was never intended to be a secret and should have been listed in the tech specs. That was an error on our part. The microphone has never been on and is only activated when users specifically enable the option,” Google said.
Google’s updated product page now mentions the existence of the microphone.
If your first thought on hearing this news is that Google was spying on you or doing something equally sinister, you aren’t alone. Ray Walsh, a digital privacy expert at BestVPN.com, said “Nest’s failure to disclose the on-board microphone included in its secure home security system is a massive oversight. Nest’s parent company Google claims that the feature was only made available to consumers who activated the feature manually. Presumably, nobody did this; because the feature wasn’t advertised.