Google Home Mini Caught Spying on Users

Some Google Home Mini review units were listening to everything – but it's fixed

Google Home Mini updated to stop it from accidentally recording everything

Anecdotal claims smartphones record offline conversations then serve up relevant ads on Facebook; a belief that Amazon Alexa's sometimes erratic behaviour is a sign of it listening more than it should.

Google has pushed out a patch to stop its latest smart speaker the Home Mini from recording everything its users were saying to it. To his horror, he saw that there were thousands of Home Mini recordings.

But while watching TV within earshot of the Home Mini it began to speak every few seconds, attempting to reply to what it thought were instructions given by a person nearby. Russakovskii says he became suspicious of the device after noticing that the lights on it turned on more often than they should have.

According to a report from Android Police's Artem Russakovskii, the review unit he sent was buggy in the sense that it basically recorded everything all the time, even when the "OK Google" hotword was not spoken. Through his My Activity portal on Google, he saw the recordings - thousands of them. The Mini Home was taken away and swapped for two fresh ones.

Russakovskii seems happy with Google's response.

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The issue was to do with the Mini's touch-sensitive body.

As an added precaution, all activity and queries created by long-pressing the touch sensor on Home Mini speakers between October 4-7 have been wiped and will no longer show up on owner's My Activity Page. The culprit, it seemed, was the device's touch panel, created to allow his Home Mini to activate Google Assistant without a verbal command; due to a fault, the device constantly experienced "phantom" touch events that turned the assistant on and began recording.

The company said in a statement: "The Google Home team is aware of an issue impacting a small number of Google Home Mini devices that could cause the touch control mechanism to behave incorrectly. We rolled out an update on October 7 to mitigate the issue". Some were listening to everything, recording it all, and transmitting the audio back to Google's servers.

On paper, the donut-sized Google Home Mini and premium Apple HomePod-rivaling Google Home Max look pretty sweet, with early reviews consolidating at least the former's position as a very strong Echo Dot contender. However, the solution is to detach a feature from the Mini.

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