Published: Thu, October 12, 2017
Science | By Hubert Green

Google Home Mini bug cleaned with update, quick response appreciated

Google Home Mini bug cleaned with update, quick response appreciated

Google has made a decision to "permanently remove" the feature that led to a "small number" of Home Mini units accidentally recording thousands of times a day, instead of just when a user triggers it.

Google had seemingly hoped to return the top button functionality to the Home Mini at a later date, but now the company seems to have given up on that - either because it couldn't figure out a way to do it, or simply out of an abundance of caution.

A support note describing Home Mini's controls said the touch feature was "temporarily disabled", suggesting Google was working on a solution to reenable it. Google told us in a statement that they take "user privacy and product quality very seriously", and by removing this feature, they hope customers who ordered and own a Google Home Mini will have "complete peace of mind" now. For now, it is not clear if all of the 4,000 test mini speakers that Google gave away have the same bug.

Over at Android Police, Artem Russakovskii posted a scary account after spending a few days with the device. 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 launched the Home Mini on October and expects the first pre-order devices to ship by October 18. Furthermore, the device failed to notify users when it was randomly listening in on them.

The feature has been removed after a bug was found that made the Mini think the touch section was being held down, so Google Assistant was constantly activated. It turns out that Google is willing to cripple the device rather than take any risks. Nevertheless, the issue affecting the touch-control interface affects just "a small number" of devices, Google assured users. Doing so will, however, affect the accuracy of the device's voice recognition.

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. It's a good thing this issue was uncovered before the home hubs went on general sale, but does perhaps raise wider concerns around the potential for recording devices in our homes to malfunction, and capture information we may not be happy with sharing.

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