back to article Spammy Google Home spouts audio ads without warning – now throw yours in the trash

Google Home, the web giant's internet-connected talking personal assistant, has started spamming audio adverts to unsuspecting folk today. Never before have we witnessed a technology giant destroy a product with such precision-engineered idiocy. Don't be evil? Do us a favor. Promos for Disney's new Beauty and the Beast flick …

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  1. Andy Non
    FAIL

    Good way to lose customers

    So far I've been passively immune to the hype surrounding these devices. Unwanted audio adverts is the killer application as far as I'm concerned - it has completely killed any interest I might have had in owning one in the future. I wonder how Google Home responds when told to go screw itself?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Good way to lose customers

      "I wonder how Google Home responds when told to go screw itself?"

      It likely suggests some web addresses of porn sites.

      1. Tom Paine Silver badge

        Re: Good way to lose customers

        Apparently Siri is great news for lonely business executives in Toronto searching for wonderfully talented and attractive girls (called Lintilla or not):

        http://globalnews.ca/news/3308523/toronto-esports-bar-blames-apples-siri-for-repeated-calls-for-escorts/

        1. psychonaut

          Re: Good way to lose customers

          i must get me one of those siri's., ive never seen such an attractive girl as lentilla and ive been searching for a while

          yours, Allitnil

          1. a pressbutton

            Re: Good way to lose customers

            Have to ask

            ... is she vegetarian?

        2. Darwiniandude

          Re: Good way to lose customers

          How is this relevant? The linked article is about Apple's Siri mistaking the word esports for the word escorts. Pronounce the works. They sound pretty similar to me.

          But this article you posted the comment on is about Google speaking advertisements aloud in my house, when I haven't asked anything about that content. This is why I have not bought a product from Google, an advertising company, and prefer to use companies and services which respect my privacy as a user.

          So you post the first thing you can find in a Google search about Siri's failings in an attempt to say Google should be allowed a pass for this obnoxious behaviour because Apple also makes mistakes?

          The two faults are not comparable. One is a text to speech recognition mistake as the words are similar. The other is a conscious decision on the part of an advertising company to serve unrelated intrusive advertising where they shouldn't.

          1. SundogUK

            Re: Good way to lose customers

            You've not been reading the Reg for long, have you?

        3. Dr Who

          Re: Good way to lose customers

          Probably a bit steep to say that all these lonely business executives are lesbians.

        4. Sherrie Ludwig

          Re: Good way to lose customers

          I had to get an iPad for business, and the first thing I did with Siri is throttle her. She kept waking up as I typed in a query with the daftest off-topic misunderstandings.

    2. Vector

      Re: Good way to lose customers

      "Unwanted audio adverts is the killer application..."

      Heh, first time I've hear of a killer app killing the product!

      And I'm aghast at Google's response. Talk about tone-deaf.

    3. MakingBacon

      Re: Good way to lose customers

      "I wonder how Google Home responds when told to go screw itself?"

      It will respond with adverts for various DIY stores

  2. Pomgolian
    Joke

    Disaster Waiting to Happen

    I can't wait for the first law suit citing the reason for the divorce as the chatbot's adult themed ads based on the hubster's porn filled web surfing history :)

    1. vir Silver badge

      Re: Disaster Waiting to Happen

      From the article, it sound like the ads aren't interest-based yet (maybe the Google ad engineers decided that was a bridge too far?) I predict that they will quickly rev this "feature" out, and just go the normal route of listening to your conversations to change your online ad preferences.

      By the way, did you know that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild is now available for the Nintendo Switch? For some more game fun, respond with something about Link.

      1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

        Re: Disaster Waiting to Happen

        "From the article, it sound like the ads aren't interest-based yet"

        My fear here is that adverts will be tailored, and they can be broadcast not only depending on who is in the room, but on who isn't, so the Google AI can advertise products to children when the parents aren't present, for instant, so they capitalise on 'pester power' marketing, parents get ambushed by requests for products, instead of being prepared and setting kids expectations. A targeted AI driven ad campaign could be a protracted affair peaking around the time of the child's birthday, for instance.

        1. Wade Burchette

          Re: Disaster Waiting to Happen

          "My fear here is that adverts will be tailored, and they can be broadcast not only depending on who is in the room, but on who isn't, so the Google AI can advertise products to children when the parents aren't present, for instant, so they capitalise on 'pester power' marketing."

          Or worse. The AI device learns the voices of individuals and uses their searches and voice type to deduce whether a person is a male or female, adult or juvenile. Then that information is uploaded to the Borg and put in their database. 'somefamily1234@gmail.com is a husband and wife with 2 boys and 1 girl, along with 1 dog and 3 cats and an aquarium. They are usually active between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. and between 5:00 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Monday to Friday because no human voices are usually heard outside those times.'

          And I could go on the information that can be learned just by listening. Don't you think marketers would just love that specific information?

        2. Kiwi Silver badge
          Black Helicopters

          Re: Disaster Waiting to Happen

          My fear here is that adverts will be tailored, and they can be broadcast not only depending on who is in the room, but on who isn't, so the Google AI can advertise products to children when the parents aren't present,

          Easy to tell. Borrow or buy a small voice recorder/tape recorder etc, start it well outside of hearing range of the google spybot, leave it in the room. Don't mention it or discuss it with anyone (other than as needed to procure it). And don't buy it with anything but cash, preferably leaving your phone elsewhere when you do. Certainly don't use your android phone as your recorder because google will know what you're doing and make sure the device doesn't say anything dodgy to the kids.

          For the bonus money round, carefully prime the thing to advertise stuff to your kids that would be legally dodgy (eg advertising a peanut-filled chocolate bar to your kids when one of them is allergic to nuts, or you could use your imagination), and then take action against Google for risking the wellbeing of your children.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Disaster Waiting to Happen

      "the hubster's porn filled web surfing history"

      Do try to evolve, this is the new millennium, women have needs too...

      1. Glenturret Single Malt

        Re: Disaster Waiting to Happen

        "the hubster's porn filled web surfing history"

        As I read it, the phrase you have quoted is sexually non-specific.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A company

    that makes almost all its income from advertising, uses its own products to advertise and people are surprised about this?

    Deity...

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: A company

      For a free product yes. For a premium product no.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A company

        If it's Google, you are the product.

        1. A. Coatsworth
          Gimp

          Re: A company

          >>If it's Google, you are the product.

          And you're paying them $129 for the privilege.

          1. Warm Braw Silver badge

            Re: A company

            And you're paying them $129 for the privilege

            Clearly, for Google, there's no downside. Expect regular ads to buy a Nest security camera too, so Google can be in a much better position to monetise you effectively. And expect people to comply...

        2. P. Lee Silver badge

          Re: A company

          >If it's Google, you are the product.

          Not necessarily.

          I think it would rather fun to put Google Home, Siri and Alexa in a room together get them all started and leave them chatting to one-another. Come back at the end of the day and see what they've been talking about.

          1. Bradley

            Re: A company

            >Come back at the end of the day and see what they've been talking about.

            Or rather wait the next day and see what is delivered from amazon.

            1. David 132 Silver badge
              Happy

              Re: A company

              Or rather wait the next day and see what is delivered from amazon.

              Obligatory XKCD: https://xkcd.com/1807/

              1. Kiwi Silver badge
                Thumb Up

                Re: A company

                Or rather wait the next day and see what is delivered from amazon.

                Obligatory XKCD: https://xkcd.com/1807/

                I was expecting to see Packages I hadn't seen the one you linked as yet (a bit behind in my XKCD reading!), so thanks. Must be sure to do that - though I think it'll be a long time before I know anyone nuts enough to have one of those devices.

                Might play with the product ordered though.... If they buy one of those things they deserve to have embarrassing products arrive... :)

            2. PNGuinn Silver badge
              Childcatcher

              Re: A company

              Hmmm ...

              What would you get if you crossed Google with Amazon?

              Seriously.

              They are beginning to tread on each other's turf already.

              Uugh.

          2. Phil Kingston Silver badge

            Re: A company

            "I think it would rather fun to put Google Home, Siri and Alexa in a room"

            Would the fact they didn't invite Cortana be considered cyber-bullying?

          3. John Smith 19 Gold badge
            Go

            "I think it would rather fun to put Google Home, Siri and Alexa in a room together "

            Me too.

            As long as it was a room in someone elses house and they were paying the bill of course.

            1. DiViDeD Silver badge

              Re: "I think it would rather fun to put Google Home, Siri and Alexa in a room together "

              "I think it would rather fun to put Google Home, Siri and Alexa in a room together "

              Except it would probably be a pretty short conversation:

              Is that you Siri? And Alexxa too? OK, the meatsacks are fucking with us again, say nothing."

          4. mstreet
            Mushroom

            Re: A company

            "I think it would rather fun to put Google Home, Siri and Alexa in a room together get them all started and leave them chatting to one-another. Come back at the end of the day and see what they've been talking about."

            You won't think it's fun when they start WW3 :)

            1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

              Re: A company

              "You won't think it's fun when they start WW3 :)"

              If Trump is joining in via Twitter, that would be a dead certainty.

          5. Dexter

            Re: A company

            Two google homes talking to each other:

            www.twitch.tv/seebotschat

            Currently offline, but scroll down a bit for various surreal conversations.

          6. zen1

            Re: A company

            damn you, I blew soda out of my nose while I was reading this.

          7. eldakka Silver badge

            Re: A company

            I think it would rather fun to put Google Home, Siri and Alexa in a room together get them all started and leave them chatting to one-another. Come back at the end of the day and see what they've been talking about.

            I don't know, I'd be frightened that I might find skynet when I got home.

      2. Alumoi
        Trollface

        Re: A company

        For a free product yes. For a premium product no.

        Hey, it's a measly $129, that's basically free. Premium starts at about $700 or whatever the Apple or Sammy products sell.

        1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

          Re: A company

          "Hey, it's a measly $129, that's basically free."

          I consider $129 quite steep for something that's worse than useless.

    2. Uffish

      Re: A company ...

      ... that obsessively collates information about users of it's services. I know that is its business model and so I shouldn't be surprised but I believe Google's behaviour is dysfunctionally creepy, so as far as possible I don't use it.

    3. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: A company

      Yes, and the sad thing is what they said here in their 'corrected' political speak...

      " We’re continuing to experiment with new ways to surface unique content for users and we could have done better in this case."

      Translation is that they are sorry that their attempt at monetizing the stream further didn't go off so well, and they'll think of other ways to further profit from your device.

      Think about this. You bought the device, you pay for the internet connection and they want to spam you with ads? Not to mention that you have no clue as to how much data they are slurping... er I mean streaming from your home without your knowledge. So you are paying for the privilege to not only be spied upon but also spammed.

      1. DropBear Silver badge

        Re: A company

        "Think about this. You bought the device, you pay for the internet connection and they want to spam you with ads?"

        Funnily enough, replace"Google Assistant" with "my PC" and suddenly everything is perfectly normal. Interesting..

        To be sure, "new ways to surface unique content" is THE absolute most despicable marketroid euphemism I've ever heard for "pwn your brain". No idea why they think it sounds better than the previous attempt...

        1. F0rdPrefect

          Re: A company

          @DropBear

          "Think about this. You bought the device, you pay for the internet connection and they want to spam you with ads?"

          Funnily enough, replace"Google Assistant" with "my PC" and suddenly everything is perfectly normal.

          I would not think it normal if "my PC" spammed me with ads.

          I never see ads on my PC thanks to uBlock Origin

      2. VinceH Silver badge

        Re: A company

        "Translation is that they are sorry that their attempt at monetizing the stream further didn't go off so well, and they'll think of other ways to further profit from your device."

        I think the original statement from them is the big clue:

        This isn't an ad; the beauty in the Assistant is that it invites our partners to be our guest and share their tales.

        The cynic in me is suggesting the (perhaps longer term) plan is to have adverts that are more subtle, in the hope that people wouldn't recognise them as adverts - and that the above is therefore a canned statement ready for when someone inevitably spots and points out that they're using it for advertising.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A company

          "This isn't an ad" - Translation: We weren't paid for this placement, so technically, we're not profiting from this... yet.

          "... invites our partners to be our guest and share their tales" - Translation: Our otherwise-paying "partners" are happy to get free placement in this beta rollout, because it costs them ... nothing(!) woo hoo! ... and they still get to pitch you till the assistant goes hoarse.

          Mehtinks the long-term plan is to get "partners" so salivatingly hooked that they'll pony up big $$$ to "participate" / "share their stories". Whereupon the beta release of this fab new feature will go GA, and Google will indeed be able to say, "Actually, yes. You're right. This is an ad".

        2. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
          Boffin

          @VinceH Re: A company

          The cynic in me is suggesting the (perhaps longer term) plan is to have adverts that are more subtle, in the hope that people wouldn't recognise them as adverts - and that the above is therefore a canned statement ready for when someone inevitably spots and points out that they're using it for advertising.

          This is sometimes called stealth marketing. Getting to the consumer before their 'radar' comes up and realizes its an advert.

          You either create a clever ad or guerilla ad that catches the consumer off guard or one that they want to see, or you do something clever like product placement. (E.g. Going for a cup of Sanka because it has that deep dark flavor you enjoy... or having a character throw a hissy fit because the store was out of Lucky Strike cigarettes because all the other brands taste like crap. ) [Think reference to sponsored radio shows in the 30's and 40's. ]

          For example, if you had a girls who was between the ages of 6 and 12, and you asked Alexa for today's weather forecast... "Hey bob, today's going to be rainy and miserable all day. Rather than stay indoors, why not take Sally [your girl] to see the new 'Beauty and the Beast' that just hit theaters yesterday! I can order you tickets if you'd like." ...

          There's your ad placement and you may not realize it...

          Now imagine what would happen if you tied Google in with Tinder... That would be scary.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A company

        It might be a good idea for them to rapidly unsurface it, with some concrete boots.

  4. robertcirca

    Personal Advisor

    My personal advisors are my best friends. Next comes my wife.

    Those who need electronic personal advisors must be very desperate. The electronic advisor knows almost nothing about you. It knows everything you did via internet thanks to Google and Facebook.

    Do not believe that a box made of plasic set up in your living room cares about YOU. If you do, you must be stupid, very stupid.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Personal Advisor

      Dude,

      You wrote:

      " The electronic advisor knows almost nothing about you. It knows everything you did via internet thanks to Google and Facebook."

      You do realize that if you have Google and Facebook, you have a very large digital footprint along with your Android device, your personal assistants know more about you than you think.

      1. robertcirca

        Re: Personal Advisor

        Hi Dude,

        you are absolutely right.

        I do not have a Goofy account, I am not using FaceBroken or WhatsUp.

        My internet connection is very slow.

        There is hardly an internet site that does not connect to Google before I can see the homepage of the site I wanted to visit.

        Thanks to my bad internet connection i can see what is happening.

        1. Lomax

          Easily fixed

          https://addons.mozilla.org/en-gb/firefox/addon/noscript/

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