Nest has a secret microphone–Google just forgot to tell us

By Cale Guthrie Weissman

Some surprises are fun–like when a friend gives you an unexpected gift. Others, not so much. They can even a bit frightening sometimes. We have a good example of the latter kind of surprise, thanks to Google’s most recent Nest integration.

The company announced that Nest, its home security system, was getting an update that would include the virtual assistant Google Assistant. At first glance, that seems fine–a Google device can now be used with another Google program. There’s one glaring issue, however: Nest never disclosed it had a microphone, which would be necessary for such an integration.

Business Insider reports that the “existence of a microphone on the Nest Guard (which is the alarm, keypad, and motion sensor component in the Nest Secure offering) was never disclosed in any of the product material for the device.” Google admitted to BI that this was indeed an “error.” The company says it should have been listed in the technical specifications. Whoops!

Google added that it never used the microphone to record anything and that it could only be turned on if the user specifically enables it. Still, for Google to not tell people about the existence of something that can listen to users is certainly suspect. Especially since Nest is a security device–something that’s supposed to provide users with peace of mind.

This is another perfect example of tech companies overstepping boundaries when it comes to user privacy and then expecting people to simply accept an apology.

For now, Nest users may be a bit more trepidatious when using the product. Google may say that it didn’t record them, but then again, Google also didn’t tell them there was a secret microphone. Let’s hope Google didn’t forget any other important details in the tech specs.

You can read the full Business Insider report here.

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