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Google will cripple the Home Mini to protect your privacy

Published Oct 12th, 2017 6:50AM EDT
Google Home Mini Privacy
Image: Google

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The Home Mini smart speaker isn’t even out, and Google is already putting out a major privacy-related fire. Some of the early reviewers discovered that the Home Mini would activate the Google Assistant all by itself and record all the sounds around it, sending that data to Google’s servers for processing.

Google was quick to respond to complaints and discovered that the physical button that can be used to invoke the Assistant was registering ghost touches, thus activating the feature. The company said that a software update will disable the switch and that all the units that have been preordered will have a fix in place. It turns out that Google is willing to cripple the device rather than take any risks.

Google confirmed to BGR in a statement that it’s going to permanently disable all touch functionality on the Google Home Mini. That means the only way to wake the Assistant is by saying OK Google or Hey Google. That is probably the most convenient way to call upon any home assistant. After all, not having to touch a screen or keyboard is the whole point of these devices.

What’s great about Google’s swift action is that the company is willing to cripple one of its newest devices to guard the privacy of the user. Yes, it’s still a PR nightmare to admit that a brand new hardware product ships with a significant design flaw. But Google is doing the right thing here by disabling the button.

That also means you won’t be able to use it to play music or stop an alarm, as the touch button was also tied to these particular features. The volume buttons, meanwhile, remain unaffected.

Here’s Google’s full statement on the matter:

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.

We have made the decision to permanently remove all top touch functionality on the Google Home Mini. As before, the best way to control and activate Google Home Mini is through voice, by saying “Ok Google” or “Hey Google,” which is already how most people engage with our Google Home products. You can still adjust the volume by using the touch control on the side of the device.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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