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The Google Home Mini was recently the subject of controversy for recording audio clips without the user’s permission. Google made the unprecedented move of disabling one of the main features of the smart speaker before its release. ( Google Store )
The Google Home Mini was recently the subject of controversy over user privacy concerns, but Google quickly fixed the problem.
While it would certainly have been much better if the issue never existed in the first place, the speed and finality of Google’s response to the controversy certainly deserve praise from the technology industry and its customers.
Google Home Mini Privacy Issue: Here Are The Details
The Google Home Mini controversy started when Artem Russakovskii of Android Police discovered that his review unit of the smart speaker was activating by itself thousands of times each day, recording ambient sounds, and then sending the audio clips to Google’s servers.
The audio clips were recorded and sent to Google without user permission, despite the Google Home Mini not hearing its wake word of “OK, Google” nor its touch sensor being activated.
The problem was traced to the top touch sensor, as the Google Home Mini was thinking that somebody was activating it. This resulted in the massive number of recordings being taken and sent to Google.
Google Responds To Google Home Mini Controversy
Google at first responded to the controversy by stating that only the early review units of the Google Home Mini were affected by the privacy issue. The company then assured customers that the Google Home Mini devices that they will receive will not have the problem.
Google then quickly followed up its initial response by permanently disabling all top touch functionality in all Google Home Mini devices. The Google Home Mini can still be activated through its wake words, while its side touch controls can still be used to adjust its volume.
“We take user privacy and product quality concerns very seriously. Although we only received a few reports of this issue, we want people to have complete peace of mind while using Google Home Mini,” the company said in a statement.
Permanently disabling a feature on a product that has not yet been released is unprecedented, especially as the removal of the top touch function also affects other capabilities of the Google Home Mini. The reason behind the decision is unclear, but it appears that Google gave up on fixing the top touch sensor of the Google Home Mini before it rolls out to customers later this month.
This may be a case of hardware or software that can no longer be fixed before its release, but the response of Google to fix the Google Home Mini issue is the kind of decisive answer that many customers are hoping for from technology companies when facing privacy concerns. Hopefully, other companies will take note and no longer take so much time in releasing emergency patches, or even worse, deny any wrongdoing.
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