After the hacking fiasco a few weeks ago, Nest users have been more on edge about their security devices than ever before. The recent discovery of a built-in, hidden microphone on the Nest Guard, part of the Nest Secure security system, has only served to further exacerbate those concerns.
Consumers might never have known the microphone existed had Google not announced support for Google Assistant on the Nest Secure. This sounds like a great addition, except for one little problem: users didn’t know their Nest Secure had a microphone. None of the product documentation disclosed the existence of the microphone, nor did any of the packaging.
If your first thought on hearing this news is that Google was spying on you or doing something equally sinister, you aren’t alone. Ray Walsh, digital privacy expert at BestVPN.com, said “Nest’s failure to disclose the onboard microphone included in its secure home security system is a massive oversight. Nest’s parent company Google claims that the feature was only made available to consumers who activated the feature manually. Presumably, nobody did this; because the feature wasn’t advertised until an update released earlier this February.”
Many consumers were outraged by the discovery. Although Google claims the microphone had never been turned on and was only included in the device for potential future upgrades, the fact remains that the company sold a product with the potential to spy on its users. Even if Google themselves did not use the microphone, the Nest Secure is a web-connected device. Hackers could have gained access to listen in on private conversations, and consumers would have been none the wiser.
Google claimed responsibility for the oversight, but it seems like it’s a bit too little, too late at this point. The discovery of a hidden microphone follows too closely on the heels of the Nest hacks for many customers to feel comfortable with the company or the product. No one assumes Google is an evil corporation with plans to steal personal information for an insidious reason, but in this era of heightened caution with regard to consumer privacy and mega-corporations, these discoveries seem to play on consumers’ worst fears.
Ray Walsh sums up the situation well: “… the question you have to ask yourself is – do you trust Google?”