Remember when we pointed out how Google was recording private conversations and storing the recordings for analysis? If you had a Google Assistant powered smart home device, then your voice recordings may have been used as part of a drive to improve the software’s artificial intelligence (AI) and its success rate. And this was a practice that turned out to be in use by other major companies like Apple too.
Well, at a media briefing in New York that took place this week, Google showcased a new update to its range of Nest smart home devices. The product line is being expanded with the introduction of 2 new devices, the Google Nest Mini and Google Nest Hub Max. The Mini looks very similar in design to the existing Google Mini smart assistant, while the Hub Max resembles the company’s own Google Home Hub with a built-in screen.
So, what’s all this about recording your guests conversations?
You’re ‘likely being recorded’ admits Google executive
During an interview that took place between the BBC and Google after the New York event, Rick Osterloh, a Senior Vice President at Google, admitted that he would probably warn guests at his home that they were likely to be recorded by his smart home devices.
‘Does the owner of a home need to disclose to a guest? (…) I would and do when someone enters into my home, and it’s probably something that the products themselves should try to indicate.’Rick Osterloh
The Nest Mini is designed in such a way that it can not only accept voice commands to control the home, but also monitor for potential ‘danger cues’ – for example, something being knocked over or broken inside of the home. At least, this was one of the use cases shown off by Google.
The concern is that these devices are ‘self-regulating’, which means that even if you don’t issue one of the wake words – ‘Hey Google’ or ‘OK Google’ – they can still begin recording by themselves. This makes it feasible for completely random conversations with friends or family to be picked up by the devices unknowingly.
What else does the Nest Mini do?
The name may be misleading at first glance. Originally, the Nest was a smart home thermostat; you’ve probably seen the adverts on TV. You can remotely control your central heating while you’re away from home. The company was acquired by Google in 2014 and now the Google smart assistant devices have officially been rebranded. Essentially, the Google Nest Mini is the latest upgrade to the prior Google Mini generation 1 and 2 devices.
The smart speakers can do a whole range of other things too, like setting alarms, playing music, streaming photos and answering questions directly through the power of Google’s search engine. If you already have a range of Google smart speakers, then you don’t absolutely need the Nest.