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Sorry, we didn’t mean to keep that secret microphone a secret, says Google

It's been off by default, Google says - not much consolation to those who don't cotton to the notion of a "secret" listening gadget.

Earlier this month, Google attempted to cozy up to harried commuters with the news that they could thenceforth ask their Nest home security and alarm system if, say, they needed an umbrella, or how gnarly their commute would be.

All that’s being brought to you courtesy of Google Assistant being enabled on Nest Guard, which is the alarm, keypad, and motion-sensor component in Google’s Nest Secure system.

Of course, for those smart devices to respond to their owners, they need to hear their voices… and to hear their voices, the gadgets, obviously, need a microphone.

A microphone that’s been there all along, but which Google completely left out of product documentation, as you can see on this archived page that predated Google’s 4 February 2019 announcement.

Well, that’s just dandy, some Nest owners said. Google’s had a secret microphone planted in our houses all this time:

In its announcement, Google added that Nest Guard does have one built-in microphone, but that it’s not enabled by default.

Google, of course, focused on the benefits to consumers, not the “surprise! We planted a secret surveillance device in your home!” takeaway that some of its users are now experiencing.

On Tuesday, the company told Business Insider that the omission of the microphone from product documentation was made in “error.”

A Google spokesperson:

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.

An honest mistake? Possibly. But when you’re a company that does things like “accidentally” scoop up data transmitted over consumers’ unsecured Wi-Fi networks, including emails, as Google did in the Wi-Spy Street View data breach… and then it turns out that the breach was far from a surprise, given that Google staff knew about it for years…

…well, it’s understandable how a Google “woops!” might not sound particularly credible to some consumers.


I don’t believe for a second that the microphone was omitted from the specs by mistake.

The thing is, someone, probably a whole team of people worked on the microphone and it’s supporting software for months. Other teams within google probably totalling at least 100 people would also have been aware of the microphone because it would have appeared in the internal specifications.

Do google seriously want us to believe, that when the near final prototypes where circulated within the office, and the teams had their end of project celebrations, that no one sent an email to project management to say that the microphone had been left of the public specification?

Pull the other one!


If you feel the need to have Google / Amazon snooping stuff in your home, best to fit a decent firewall and DNS sink on your network. A Sophos XG in combination with a popular DNS sink (based on a popular small low cost computer) would do nicely.


Isn’t this the same company that tracked your phone even when they said they weren’t?


Another institutional dictatorship. Don’t trust them. Don’t believe them. They serve themselves, first, last and always. All such institutions do this. Nobody and nothing else matters to them. Keep exposing them for what they are and what they are doing to us without telling us, and for lying to us when we confront them with the evidence of their own self-serving misbehaviours directed against the public.


It’s hard for me to believe that when a person says “OK Google, what are the directions to the hardware store? ” or any other information search, that it slipped their mind that they weren’t using a microphone that has the ability to respond.
I truly hear y’all when you say Google didn’t tell you there was a mic. What did you think was happening when you asked Google for *ANY* info and it answered?


free56035,,, you,,, you clearly did not read the story. This isn’t about the “Home Assistant” that IS what you say Okay Google to, its about their “Nest” security system that you DON”T talk to.


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