back to article Secret mic in Nest gear wasn't supposed to be a secret, says Google, we just forgot to tell anyone

Google has apologised for not telling Nest smart home kit owners there was a microphone in their gear. The £99 Nest home alarm talks to Google's servers over the internet, offering home monitoring and alert functions. Here's a snapshot of the product page for the system, taken on 15 December: Google Nest specs And here's …

  1. JimboSmith Silver badge

    Don't be........

    Don't Be Forgetful I'm sure that was the Google motto.

    1. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: Don't be........

      When my friends found out that I dismantle anything I buy (excluding phones) that will be used to access the internet they laughed. I normally physically disable the microphone as a matter of course. Paranoid? Me? Not feeling that when I read things like this.

      1. matthewdjb

        Re: Don't be........

        But are you paranoid enough?

        1. JimboSmith Silver badge

          Re: Don't be........

          You can never be too paranoid. Ah bugger my hat has fallen off. Why is tinfoil so prone to wind gusts?

          1. Chloe Cresswell

            Re: Don't be........

            Change to lead foil for gravity assist?

            1. harmjschoonhoven
              Boffin

              Re: Don't be........

              Change to lead osmium foil for gravity assist?

              FTFY. I vividly remember seeing an unliftable mass of osmium at the exhibition Het Atoom (1957).

              1. Terje

                Re: Don't be........

                But does Osmiumfoil have the same proven shielding effect as proper tinfoil?

                1. 40k slimez

                  Re: Don't be........

                  Tinfoil lined maybe for the best of both...

          2. Blockchain commentard Silver badge

            Re: Don't be........

            That's the way the TLA agencies designed it. Plus they control the weather.

          3. Fungus Bob Silver badge

            Re: Don't be........

            Tin foil has been compromised by the Trilateral Commission.

          4. Andy 97

            Re: Don't be........

            Sounds like you need one of these....

            https://www.amazon.co.uk/Profusion-Disposable-Tinfoil-Frosting-Colouring/dp/B07H6BFPC3

      2. Mage Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: used to access the internet

        Um, I'm sure I only connect router/modem, computers, optional keyboard computers(tablets), book optimised computers (ereaders to lookup phrase in book, not to buy or sync), pocket computers (phones), game orientated computers (son's consoles). I don't connect the Bluray player or Smart TV to LAN or WiFi. I have computer things with HDMI, that I don't need to take apart.

      3. jake Silver badge

        Re: Don't be........

        It's not paranoia when they really are out to get you.

        Sounded trite on a bumper sticker 35 years ago. Nowadays?

        1. dbtx Bronze badge

          Also just because it's paranoia doesn't mean they're not out to get you.

          1. JohnFen Silver badge

            If they really are out to get you, then it's not paranoia.

            1. dbtx Bronze badge

              Of course. But if you don't know that... you might be more afraid of being paranoid than of being targeted, and act accordingly. Oh no, that also sounds like some good conditions for them to actually Come And Get Me!

              1. Mike Pellatt

                "That's just perfectly normal paranoia. Everyone in the universe has that" - Zaphod Beeblebrox

                1. Donchik

                  Slartibartfast surely?

                  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slartibartfast

              2. Toni the terrible
                Mushroom

                Relax

                Relax, all you have to do is learn to love the Surveillance. You know, just as you learned to love the Bomb (A Bomb that is).

          2. Hubert Thrunge Jr.

            Paranoid Android

            Just because you're not paranoid, it doesn't mean they're not out to get you....

      4. Drew Scriver
        Alert

        Re: Don't be........

        Your approach is due diligence in my opinion, but have you considered that a speaker could double as a microphone?

        1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
          Headmaster

          Re: Don't be........

          As can a window or any suitable hard surface, if you point the right kit at it...

          1. Fungus Bob Silver badge

            Re: Don't be........

            Duct tape a vibrator to the window/hard surface...

            1. eldakka Silver badge

              Re: Don't be........

              Or just close the curtains (they absorb some if the sound waves, enough to make the ones that reach the glass and vibrate it to be effectively just white noise now).

              Or put a speaker in front of the window pointing at it and play random sound (white noise, or your favourite music).

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Don't be........

                In a place I used to work, there was an outer window, then a small gap and an inner pane.

                White-noise modulated air was continuously pumped through the gap....

                1. zuckzuckgo

                  Re: Don't be........

                  @Anonymous Coward

                  Robert Mueller, is that you?

                2. Blah blah brexit

                  Re: Don't be........

                  Did you have a nice view of the Thames?

              2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

                Re: Don't be........

                play random sound

                So - Steve Hackett music then?

                (For the avoidance of doubt - I really, really like Steve Hackett and his music. The above comes from a quote by my wife along the lines of "his music has too many notes and they are all in the wrong place". I did try to explain that that's the essence of proper Prog music but she's gone off the listen to the Wombles again..)

                1. Ugotta B. Kiddingme
                  Coffee/keyboard

                  Re: So - Steve Hackett music then?

                  Having just returned from this year's Cruise To The Edge which prominently featured Hackett, I can definitely confirm this...

                  Now if you want BIZARRE random sound via "music" then I recommend Adrian Belew Power Trio. Good riffs/jam punctuated by some seriously odd tangents of noise.

                2. chas49

                  Re: Don't be........

                  'The above comes from a quote by my wife along the lines of "his music has too many notes and they are all in the wrong place"'

                  She is an Eric Morecambe fan, isn't she? https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/eric_morecambe_370203

            2. fedoraman

              Re: Don't be........

              Is that an anti-surveillance measure --

              -- or just a fun thing to do?

            3. Flywheel Silver badge
              Windows

              Re: Don't be........

              Inside the room to make the most use of it .. *cough*

        2. Paul Herber

          Re: Don't be........

          and some computers can lip-read.

          1. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge
            Big Brother

            Re: Don't be........

            "some computers can lip-read"

            Really?

          2. Dagg

            Re: Don't be........

            Yes Dave....

        3. DuncanLarge Bronze badge

          Re: Don't be........

          "a speaker could double as a microphone?"

          Yep, they most certainly do. As a kid I used to use a speaker on a long wire to spy on my sister. The speaker being wired into the input of a preamp wired up with my electronics set.

          It was pretty sensitive too.

      5. This post has been deleted by its author

      6. GcdJ

        Re: Don't be........

        The action of Google was blatant in reading the SSID and the data load for the packets. They also stored the packet data for later analysis.

        Google then spent 6 years denying repeatedly that they did store the WIFI user data. The patent mentioned earlier and internal emails evidenced that the cars were deliberately set-up to store this data. Google was fined (tiny amount) and agreed to stop storing LAN data. To my knowledge this has never been verified via external audit..

        1. martinusher Silver badge

          Re: Don't be........

          >The action of Google was blatant in reading the SSID and the data load for the packets. They also stored the packet data for later analysis.

          If you know how the protocol works this is entirely reasonable. Most people aren't aware of anything under the LLC layer, they think that wireless network traffic looks like Ethernet. It doesn't, its just presented like that at the driver interface to simplify interfacing it to the rest of the stack. There's a whole lot of information under that layer, information that's broadcast because -- believe it or not -- the protocol broadcasts traffic, it doesn't send it on some exclusive channel. Your network is identified by the BSSID, not the SSID -- that's the text broadcast by periodic beacon frames (if you've got them turned on), its how you get that list of every AP in the vicinity to choose from on your computer. The user data is normally encrypted these days so its not a whole lot of use.

          I fear that between this little commotion and the current "They're spying on us" 5G scare story we may be approaching peak ignorance. I expect governments to have access to the best information possible when they make decisions but apparently our governments don't, they're vulnerable to any snake oil salesman with a glib line and a slick patter.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't be........

      Don't be gullible should be your Moto. Almost all of this article is the usual clickbait shite that the same writer constantly posts.

      Google never did drive by WiFi slurping your data, the collected WiFi SSID names and their location. Apple did EXACTLY the same thing, nobody blinked and eye...

      1. Tom 38 Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Don't be........

        I haven't heard of the "Don't be gullible", I was just going to get the Moto G7. Is the "Don't be gullible" a new range?

      2. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Don't be........

        "Google never did drive by WiFi slurping your data, the collected WiFi SSID names and their location. "

        ...which is collecting your data.

        1. eldakka Silver badge

          Re: Don't be........

          To further explain this:

          The WiFi SSID is data inside packets that are broadcast by the WiFi system. Therefore the act of reading the SSID requires reading the WiFi packets to then extract the SSID from them. You can't determine the SSID (without physical access and reading the SSID printed on the device label - assuming it hasn't been changed) without reading WiFi data.

          1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

            Re: Don't be........

            But to try to be fair to Google, is there a fundamental difference between someone broadcasting an SSID from their home and having the name of the house on the gatepost? Both are saying 'This is who I am'. Would there be the same irritation about recording the address of a house with its grid ref?

            You don't want your SSID seen, you don't broadcast it. (Yes, I know it can still be identified, but they have to deliberately ignore the 'no peeking' sign, which is what hiding the SSID means) When they THEN manage to snaffle it, it's a whole different thing! Similar to you locking the door and them picking the lock.

            1. JohnFen Silver badge

              Re: Don't be........

              I made no comment on whether collecting the SSID and such was justifiable or not, only that it is collecting personal data.

              That said, it's also true that Google collected a lot more than that -- they also collected all unsecured payload data, which included emails, etc.

              1. Toni the terrible
                Devil

                Re: Don't be........

                Always delete (securely) all emails or other electronic messages after you have received them, there is no need to keep them if you dont need to save them - and if you do save them then encrypt them as well. it only makes sense?

                1. JohnFen Silver badge

                  Re: Don't be........

                  That's not relevant to what I was mentioning, though. Google was wardriving, collecting all of the WiFi data that it could see. The emails and other personal information they collected was because people were using unsecured WiFi. In other words, Google collected data in transit, not data at rest.

                  Those people should not have been using unencrypted Wifi, of course -- in doing so, you're literally broadcasting all of your data over the radio where anybody can receive it in the clear without effort. At the same time, Google should not have been paying any attention to payload data if all they wanted was a map of SSIDs.

            2. El Al

              Re: Don't be........

              Yes, it's a difference of scope.

              Someone has to have eyes on that gatepost (even if it's via StreetView :-) ).

              Accepting that everyone knows all your business was a different proposition when that meant the 300 people you would meet in your whole lifetime.

      3. Remy Redert

        Re: Don't be........

        I recall a 2010 article detailing that slurping WIFI data was EXACTLY what Google did. They did not try to decrypt or crack the encryption on anything, but they did store anything that came over the air unencrypted while their cars drove by.

        https://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/05/14/google_street_view_cars_were_collecting_payload_data_from_wifi_networks/

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Don't be........

        What apple did was actually worse. They not only did exactly the same as Google did with their cars, SSID mapping to location, they also had users iPhones doing the same grunt work without their consent (well technically it was hidden in the T&C that they could), it also explains the iPhone shit battery life..

        Apple accidentally admitted this recently.

        "It’s doing this by using first-party data gathered by iPhones with a privacy-first methodology and its own fleet of cars packed with sensors and cameras. "

        https://techcrunch.com/2018/06/29/apple-is-rebuilding-maps-from-the-ground-up/

      5. Claverhouse Bronze badge

        Re: Don't be........

        At last the voice of reason ! Thank you, Google.

    3. Jim 59

      Re: Don't be........

      Just more of the same. Google isn't learning.

    4. J. R. Hartley Silver badge

      Re: Don't be........

      There's also a microphone in Nest Protect smoke alarms. I pointed this out a few weeks ago and got lynched by the commentards on here at the time.

      https://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/all/2019/02/01/project_alias/

      Suck on that you mothers.

      1. S_W

        Re: Don't be........

        "Got lynched" - no you didn't. Someone asked what a microphone had to do with testing and that was about it.

        Do you have a persecution complex?

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Don't be........

          Do you have a persecution complex?

          Why are you all out to get him?

          /s

      2. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Don't be........

        Huh? I don't see where anyone was even slightly mean to you in that thread, let alone "lynching" you.

    5. GnuTzu Bronze badge

      Re: Don't be........

      More like "don't forget to be forgetful."

  2. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Devil

    TL:DR version

    We were caught.

    1. Adam 1 Silver badge

      Re: TL:DR version

      In fairness, they were upfront in admitting it had a speaker. They never actually made a claim about where the energy to move the speaker coil was going to come from.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: TL:DR version

      It sounds more like

      "We weren't caught. Sorry about that ... typo. Yeah, it was a typo."

  3. chivo243 Silver badge
    Trollface

    Oh, crap they caught us again!

    Just peddle excuse #4 it worked in the past...

    1. Martijn Otto

      Re: Oh, crap they caught us again!

      It's getting a tad obvious indeed, perhaps they should use the BOFHs excuse calendar instead?

      1. chivo243 Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Oh, crap they caught us again!

        @Martijn Otto

        BOFHs excuse calendar

        I need one!! Sign me up! When can I expect it to be delivered?

        1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

          Re: Oh, crap they caught us again!

          It's in the post...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Oh, crap they caught us again!

          I found a way to make the BOFH excuses display on my PC intermittently using this old "graffiti" app, source code included.

        3. Chronos Silver badge

          Re: Oh, crap they caught us again!

          telnet bofh.jeffballard.us 666

          Croeso.

          1. bpfh Bronze badge

            Re: Oh, crap they caught us again!

            He is running a multiplayer Doom server?

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Oh, crap they caught us again!

            Or http://pages.cs.wisc.edu/~ballard/bofh/ :)

  4. Valeyard

    i believe it was a mistake..

    I'm normally the first to criticise google, but nest literally has a function where it'll activate and send me a notification if it picks up sound in the house when I'm out

    So I hardly think this is some nefarious hidden feature, This is just a non-story

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: i believe it was a mistake..

      As you seem to work for Google PR, don't you think it would have been a smart move to mention that when you implemented a mic?

      Or would that have stopped the spread of the damn thing too soon?

      You really need to stop this sort of stuff leaking, eventually you'll rouse the peasants.

      1. Valeyard

        Re: i believe it was a mistake..

        As you seem to work for Google PR

        yes, we just have a curl script refreshing theregister commentards on a big screen, it takes up the half the width of our floor (The other half is a live feed of your webcam you mucky boy)

    2. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Re: i believe it was a mistake..

      @Valeyard

      So is it usually perfectly silent in your house?

      Mine isn't, the dogs will bark when the post arrives, the cat will vomit on the rug (not on the tiles, or floorboards, but the rug), there will be a taxi honking to alert someone it's there to pick them up, the odd siren of an emergency vehicle.

      So a home snoop would be nagging me about this stuff, when I really don't care.

      1. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Re: i believe it was a mistake..

        My next door neighbours would be setting that off all day (and all night if I was away).

      2. Phil Endecott Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: i believe it was a mistake..

        Surely some “artificial intelligence” could easily distinguish between the sound of a cat vomitting on a rug and a burglar breaking a window?

        1. Kiwi Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: i believe it was a mistake..

          Surely some “artificial intelligence” could easily distinguish between the sound of a cat vomitting on a rug and a burglar breaking a window?

          Back in the early 90's or more likely late 80's there were "glass breakage detector" modules that could be fitted to shop alarm systems. Basically a microphone that was "tuned to the frequency of breaking glass" (although jingling a large and diverse enough bunch of keys could also trigger it). It would NOT detect people talking, or cars passing, or cats vomiting. It would detect the sound of broken glass. This would then trigger the alarm (a good way to drive away miscreants) and also alert you via the auto-dialer, if you had one.

          As to the idea of a system picking up sound in the house - that would mean all of my perimeter detection had already failed. Once they're inside the house it's way too late to bother notifying you about them. We used to have a TV show here done by burglars in the (supposed) interest of showing people what they liked (eg high fences were a bonus as no one could see into the property), and one thing they showed was that the more intelligent ones work to a time of a few minutes only, so they very quickly turn over the place looking for cash or easily carried valuables.

          So what if the alarm tells the house owner they're inside? And so what if the house is strewn with cameras instantly delivering everything to the eyes of every cop in the world - if they're covering their heads, out quickly, and scarper in different directions (removing their coverings as they go), they're fine. Assuming the cops can even bother to respond (they won't, they'll be pissed at you for complaining as you use up valuable doughnut eating/minority bashing/ticket issuing time) unless the perps are extremely unlucky the nearest free car will be more than 10 minutes away, and the nearest dog team more than half an hour away.

          (#Mustgetapotatoeclock)

      3. Someone Else Silver badge
        Pint

        @GruntyMcPugh -- Re: i believe it was a mistake..

        [...] the cat will vomit on the rug (not on the tiles, or floorboards, but the rug) [...]

        Cats are good at picking their targets for maximum destruction, aren't they...

      4. brucedenney

        Re: i believe it was a mistake..possibly

        It is possible, but very unlikely.

        In my opinion, they left the mic off the spec sheet because it was not activated and had no function, so any user buying the device would complain that whilst it may have a physical mic it had no functional mic.

        This is not an accident, it is a deliberate omission, for a specific and rational reason.

        1. Fred Dibnah

          Re: i believe it was a mistake..possibly

          Whilst that may be true, any manufacturer could deliberately sell devices with un-activated and un-publicised hardware at first, then activate it later without telling anyone. They could then claim it was a deliberate omission, but IMHO it's a sneaky way to behave (but to be expected).

      5. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: i believe it was a mistake..

        the dogs will bark when the post arrives, the cat will vomit on the rug (not on the tiles, or floorboards, but the rug)

        Of course the cats do - it's part of the unwritten contract. Just look at the (very, very, very) small print.

        Even better, they make sure to vomit on the bit that *exactly* matches the colour of said vomit. At night.

        So that when you[1] are wandering around (having heard said vomiting and wanting to clear it up before the dog eats it or someone treads in it) you'll[1] be guarenteed to tread in it.

        Hmmm.. warm cat-sick[2].

        [1] Or, more accurately, 'she'.. I'm quite happy for the dog to clean it up. They are all regularly wormed..

        [2] It doesn't help that two of our cats have badly-compomised digestions (rescue cats, came to with very, very badly upset digestions) and are prone to vomit at the drop of a gnats fart. Even when fed on very expensive food meant for sensitive stomachs. It does reduce the vomiting but doesn't prevent it. None of the other cats are prone to random vomiting..

        1. M.V. Lipvig

          Re: i believe it was a mistake..

          Brush the cats more often, and serve smaller meals more often. It'll help.

          1. Kiwi Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: i believe it was a mistake..

            rush the cats more often, and serve smaller meals more often. It'll help.

            Have to agree totally with this. Have seen rescue cats that were strays who had grown up trying to hurriedly eat as much as they could as quickly as they could before they were driven off by another animal.

            When housed, they would continue this practice but of course they had more food available than they could fit in their stomach. This didn't stop them putting it away, but soon after they'd have to bring some back up.

            By giving smaller meals, even hand-feeding them a few bites at a time, you could eliminate this problem.

            That doesn't mean it will always work, sometimes there are issues with the digestion that aren't easily fixed, but I have found it helps out most of the time with rescues.

    3. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: i believe it was a mistake..

      It's really hard to see how this could have been a mistake.

    4. FXi

      Re: i believe it was a mistake..

      So Google, is there anything else in your product list you forgot to tell us about?

      "I'm sorry sir but we're going to exercise our right not to incriminate ourselves"

    5. steviebuk Silver badge

      Re: i believe it was a mistake..

      Seems a bit odd that view considering Google themselves state the mic was never activated until now as they obviously want to use it.

    6. disgruntled yank Silver badge

      Re: i believe it was a mistake..

      My burglar alarm literally has a function where it will activate and send the monitoring center an alert if it picks up a loud sound when the alarm is set. (And wake up the neighbors, too, if that happens at night, but never mind that.)

      However, if I found out that the glass-break detector was monitoring my conversations, you can bet there would be a conversation with the alarm company.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: i believe it was a mistake..

        Your alarm company is probably much more trustworthy than Google.

        1. Fred Dibnah

          Re: i believe it was a mistake..

          Not if the alarm is supplied by Alphabet Burglarization Solutions.

          1. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: i believe it was a mistake..

            True, but Alphabet isn't an alarm company. They're an ad company.

    7. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: i believe it was a mistake..

      I think that Google has used up any "benefit of the doubt" they may have been due years ago. At this point, it seems that if you assume nefarious intent from them by default, you're more likely to be right than wrong.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Presumably backed to the hilt by UK consumer law (or lack thereof)

    So what rights does a customer who bought one of these have, now it's effectively a different thing ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Presumably backed to the hilt by UK consumer law (or lack thereof)

      It ought to come with free side cutters so you can remove it, or mount the mic on a socket so it can be pulled by people who don't trust you.

      That said, those people probably would not have bought a Nest anyway after Google acquired it.

      1. A. Coatsworth
        Coat

        Re: Presumably backed to the hilt by UK consumer law (or lack thereof)

        All buyers are eligible for a complimentary slap in the back of the head, for buying IOShiT crud.

        I'm available to provide them myself. Don't worry about giving us the address, Nest will do that for you, and will let us know when you are home

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Presumably backed to the hilt by UK consumer law (or lack thereof)

          I'm available to provide them myself. Don't worry about giving us the address, Nest will do that for you, and will let us know when you are home

          Oh my, you are going to be very busy. How about emailing instructions for them to do it themselves... see icon for example.

      2. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Presumably backed to the hilt by UK consumer law (or lack thereof)

        "those people probably would not have bought a Nest anyway after Google acquired it."

        Or before.

        I think there's a larger point here, though. That there was an undisclosed microphone in these devices reinforces the point that you can't trust Google, period, and therefore should not buy anything from them, whether internet connected or not.

      3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Presumably backed to the hilt by UK consumer law (or lack thereof)

        It ought to come with free side cutters so you can remove it

        I suspect that a good-sized blob of Araldite forced into the microphone aparture would do the trick. I a suitably sharp object..

    2. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Presumably backed to the hilt by UK consumer law (or lack thereof)

      All consumers have the right to rip the microphone out. Bonus points for completely destroying the device in the process.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: All consumers have the right to rip the microphone out.

        And send the bill to Google ? That might work better in a UK court.

  6. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    So used to it they forgot to tell

    Talk about a damning indictment of our society...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    At least ..

    .. the privacy debate is heating up again. And Google is actually listening.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Whew!

      Good thing they control the thermostat, now, too.

    2. Mage Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Google is actually "listening"

      To everyone using Android, Chrome Browser, Chrome OS, Google / Alphabet gadgets, Google / Alphabet: Analytics, apis, fonts, YouTube, Gmail etc.

      Listening in a most general sense. Not always with a microphone.

      I'm not sure what the answer is. I do know what the problem is.

    3. eldakka Silver badge

      Re: At least ..

      And Google is actually listening.

      But what'd be really nice is if they were only listening to communications directed to them, rather than all conversations, everywhere, all the time.

  8. STOP_FORTH
    Devil

    Brass neck

    The dog ate my homework. Prove me wrong. Are you calling me a liar?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Brass neck

      Nah - the dog ate the specification.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've got a feeling....

    somebody's watching me, and I've got no privacy...

    Anon, just in case they really are!

    1. Patched Out
      Black Helicopters

      Re: I've got a feeling....

      You're never truly Anon. Not really.

    2. Baldrickk Silver badge

      Never been more true

      relevant xkcd

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: Never been more true

        Or perhaps this one: https://www.xkcd.com/1807/

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Never been more true

          Or this. Time for a burrito.

  10. 10forcash Bronze badge

    I was already considering making a wearable IR LED array to disrupt all the cameraphones being constantly waved around in public - and uploading the captured images to Google, Facebook etc. without my consent and in most cases, knowledge. I think I need to expand the design brief to include something disruptive to microphones as well.... maybe something loud in the >18kHz range? sure, it'll annoy the yoof but my ears are past annoyance in that range!

    1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      a wearable IR LED array

      Is it going to look like the LED version of pinhead?

    2. Natalie Gritpants Jr

      https://sqwabb.wordpress.com/2016/12/01/new-cctv-camera-blinding-anti-surveillance-glasses/

      1. southen bastard

        thanks

        I ordered a couple of pairs (just for testing) great idea

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge

      I think I need to expand the design brief to include something disruptive to microphones as well.... maybe something loud in the >18kHz range? sure, it'll annoy the yoof but my ears are past annoyance in that range!

      Go for it. Maybe some sort of a small, guided missile or something more powerful to destroy such devices. Knowing how things are though, there will be videos of incoming destruction taken by the targets.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Maybe some sort of a small, guided missile or something more powerful to destroy such devices

        Focussed-EMP would be better. And usable on yoofs who insist on polluting that soundscape with what they laughingly call "music".

        Gerrof my lawn.

  11. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Lips moving

    Therefore lying... again.

    1. eldakka Silver badge

      Re: Lips moving

      Google are better than that.

      They don't even have to move their lips to be lying!

  12. Zilla

    £99

    The Nest Secure home alarm is not available in the UK and therefore does not cost £99 because you can't bloody buy it.

    1. 10forcash Bronze badge

      Re: £99

      Just a wild guess, because GDPR?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: £99

      The Nest camera WITHOUT the microphone is £599

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: £99

        You sure?

        Better keep refreshing the spec page...

  13. Mage Silver badge
    Flame

    IoT and voice assistants

    Dreamt up by Daemons "working" in Marketing.

    The Recycling Centre might be too good for them. See environmentally unfriendly icon.

    .+!+.

    A) No-one here was surprised

    B) They forgot to tell anyone? Was that like the Street View WiFi Slurp, or Location Tracking off?

    Also why does Google insist on Geolocating people using search even when you are not logged in and blocking analytics domains and cookies, wierd that they tell you they are doing it.

  14. jake Silver badge

    "Don't be evil" my pasty white butt.

    Oh, wait, they dropped that as a motto, and changed it to "Do the right thing". Right for whom? My guess is the shareholders ... So it's OK that they are evil now, as long as they are making a profit, right?

    Some of us have been shunning google since the year dot ... not paranoid, pragmatic.

    1. M.V. Lipvig

      Re: "Don't be evil" my pasty white butt.

      No, Don't be Evil still worked as a motto for them. They don't think they're evil. Evil people generally don't. Hitler didn't think he was evil. Neither did Stalin or Clinton. It doesn't change the fact that they are/were evil, they just didn't think they were.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What about the patent is inventive? Like.. it's a cuddly toy with a camera and microphone in it. If I want to make a cuddly toy that responded to what a kid was saying or doing, I'd put a camera and a microphone in it. Why is that patentable? Aren't Google meant to be like... clever? Or cutting edge? When I think cutting edge tech, I think new neural network archtypes or something like that.. not a cuddly toy with a microphone in it. That's like.. Apprentice levels of innovation there... and that's not a good level to be at...

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      "Aren't Google meant to be like... clever? Or cutting edge?"

      No. Google is an ad company. Although every ad company in the world would describe themselves as "clever" and "cutting edge", none actually are.

    2. Edward Ashford

      It was patentable when it was a "wow, that's a clever idea" thing. That was 1998.

      https://worldwide.espacenet.com/publicationDetails/originalDocument?CC=US&NR=6149490A&KC=A&FT=D&ND=3&date=20001121&DB=EPODOC&locale=en_EP

      Ironically the new Furby has a lawsuit against it!

      https://www.worldipreview.com/news/hasbro-targeted-in-furby-patent-infringement-suit-12707

      I just love US patents!

  16. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Whats the mic intended for

    Sorry but I can't see anything in regards what Nest product its in and what the mic is intended for?

    Maybe I need to go to Specsavers (Other Opticitians blah blah blah)

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Whats the mic intended for

      Google Assistant, apparently.

      1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Whats the mic intended for

        Ah balls I do remember reading that now

  17. Kreton

    Slow emails

    Hope the notifications are quicker than their emails, often taking over 15 minutes to receive an email after sending

    1. Clunking Fist Bronze badge

      Re: Slow emails

      Jez, Kreton: give them a chance to read your email before they pass it on.

  18. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    Wouldn't it be fun ..

    to hack into someone's Nest, and get its speaker to command Amazon's "echo" to buy 10000 rolls of bog bumph?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Until recently the only organisations dedicated to removing privacy were totalitarian governments.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      I think Google qualifies as a totalitarian government.

      1. jake Silver badge

        No, google is not a government.

        Not by any stretch of the imagination.

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: No, google is not a government.

          *shrug* I think that depends on your point of view.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: No, google is not a government.

          Neither is the Australian "government" a government! Keeps churning over prime ministers at a hell of a rate. Got a finance minister that doesn't even know whats been charged to personal credit card. etc.

  20. Milton Silver badge

    "... talks to Google's servers over the internet ..."

    "The £99 Nest home alarm talks to Google's servers over the internet, offering home monitoring and alert functions."

    We might also note that there is no reason whatsoever for any of these devices to "talk to Google's servers". It is perfectly possible to have a properly firewalled connection outbound from your home router and (if necessary) a dynamic DNS setup that allows you to connect directly to a web server hosted on the device itself. It is trivially easy to put up a few web pages displaying controls and stats for one of these devices: even a £10 RPiZ can do it with room and power to spare (I use one to control my otherwise temperamental combi boiler, which was surprised to find itself adapted as an Internet Thing).

    Just as there is no reason for your immensely powerful phone to connect to backend servers to perform speech recognition, so it is that the connection of your Nest to Google is entirely for Google's benefit and very definitely not yours.

    This is a company which makes obscene money by spying on you, and then selling you. Your life is sold and makes hundreds of dollars for Google (and Facebook and the rest of the sleazy greedmongers), and in return you get ... a few cents' worth of searches from the former, and pictures of other people's crummy dinners from the other.

    When Zuckerberg described Facebook users as "dumb fucks" he was neatly summing up the massed herds of bovine internet addicts who would, it seems, buy alligator puppies—if they were shiny, or let you lie about what a great tropical vacation you had ....

    Veterans of East Germany's Stasi must be crying with laughter, watching fat western idiots pay money to put cameras and microophones into their own homes, even after being shown that those devices report back to the least trustworthy, most deceitful companies on the planet. "Dumb fucks" indeed.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence

    Or in Google or Facebook's case, that which can be ascribed to malicious incompetence.

    1. dbtx Bronze badge

      I also thought of this but that is merely selecting from among the reasons they shan't be trusted. Any one will do.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Exactly. That malice/incompetence line gets trotted out all the time to defend the indefensible, but it's a bit of a straw man. The reality is that it simply doesn't matter if an action is the result of malice or incompetence. The action happens anyway, and that the problem.

        1. dbtx Bronze badge

          even so, AC isn't trotting it out so much as saying "both is still an option, let's go with Both"

  22. Windows8

    Screw Google they make 90s/2000s Microsoft look like a Saint... Why are they not in check yet this sort of practice should be illegal who made this "mistake" and why aren't they being fined along with Google. When people make mistakes they pay the price by being run through the system why are these turds off limits!

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Apols to: William Hughes Mearns

    Yesterday upon the stair

    I saw a device that wasn’t there

    It wasn’t there again today

    I wish, I wish they’d go away

  24. DrM

    Benjamin Franklin

    "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety

    deserve neither liberty nor safety." --Benjamin Franklin

  25. razorfishsl

    If governments tried to do this.. there would be riots in the streets.

    1. Hans 1 Silver badge
      Holmes

      That is why they have private companies doing it for them.

  26. SNAFUology
    Boffin

    uuuggghhh !!! mmmuuuhhhh !!

    Thralls & Zombies the lot of you what do you care if a mic is recording you.

    Enthralled by tech or just dragged into it by the others.

  27. Bill Michaelson
    Joke

    Deceptive?

    I note that in Figure 3B, the diagram indicates that the cameras are in the eyes, and the microphones are in the ears. Hardly deceptive!

  28. Toni the terrible
    Big Brother

    other manufacturers devices

    Does Tado have microphones too?

  29. Delbert

    Missing something?

    So run that past me again Google , the microphone is not on and is only activated if the user specifically activates the microphone which you have not told him exists or explained in the manual how to control........ which would reveal there is in fact a microphone. It almost looks like you didn't want anyone to know .... or perhaps it might accidentally be turned on

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Missing something?

      I bet it was in the manual (or some on screen menu) , but the author wanted to create a story so didnt mention that , only that the mic wasnt on the speclist page.

  30. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Well, ...

    Well, thank goodness that all these Android smartphones aren't equipped with microphones.

    Context: Last year I was browsing around in the depths of Google personalizations / settings, and found a collection of audio snippets that had apparently been captured by my phone. Most were random room noises. All a bit weird.

    Now excuse me, got to go. It's time for me to spend a few minutes refreshing my pretending to be shopping for skimpy ladies' bikinis, so that the Google advertising that follows me around everywhere will be reset to all 'Lovely and Beautiful' for the next few weeks.

  31. Claverhouse Bronze badge
    Happy

    The Teddy & the Bunny

    In re the camera concealed Teddy & Bunny, it just shows how the reliable staples of Clinton-Era sitcoms can serve as an inspiration eternally. Generally a fellow giving it to a girl.

    Maybe Google can come out with a vibrating massage chair next.

  32. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    But surely these short-sighted users bear just as much responsibility for the trend as the "evil corporation" making them? Complaining about surveillance after acquiring an Alexa or a Google Home is rather like adopting a pet crocodile and complaining when it grows up and devours the children.

    Why do you think these companies made them?

    Thats some paranoid shit right there.

    I dont have an Alexa because its a stupid pointless invention.

  33. Milton Silver badge

    Liars

    Google kept the mic secret because they knew perfectly well that the first questions would be (a) why is that in there? and (b) how do I ensure it is switched off, in hardware?—and I'm guessing that there is no way to switch off it in hardware, so you'll just have to trust Google (cue: hysterical laughter).

    Given "Don't Be Evil's" long history of lying, at least as far back as the StreetView espionage campaign, it's fair to assume they are lying again now.

    I'd be interested to see if any purchasers will now sue and demand a refund, especially if there is no easy way to ensure the mic is off or removed?

    It's one thing for me to heap scorn upon fools who deliberately introduce mic- and camera-equipped devices into their homes (especially if they're naïve enough to believe manufacturers, whose entire raison d'être is spying on people, claiming foolproof privacy and anonymity guarantees) but it seems appalling, even by Google's squalid "ethics", to fit microphones to equipment secretly. (Yes, secretly: if they wanted to claim it wasn't done with deliberate malign intent, they'd have had to notify purchasers in the first place. All else is just more lies and excuses.)

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