Nest Hacker Orders Texas Family’s Alexa to Play ‘Despacito’

Google says microphone built into Nest Guard device was ‘never intended to be a secret’

When Google’s announced that Nest Guard would receive a Google Assistant update, many homeowners who used the product were learning a significant detail for the first time.

Nest owners were surprised because Nest Guard, an alarm and motion sensor, had a microphone built into it. This microphone, according to Business Insider, was not mentioned in the specs or material describing the device. Owners didn’t know it was there.

“The on-device microphone was never intended to be a secret and should have been listed in the tech specs,” a spokesperson told BI. “That was an error on our part.”

» Beware the holiday ‘smart toys’ that spy on your kids 

Google’s announcement said that Nest Guard has one microphone and it is disabled by default. The company said the microphone was added to allow for potential future features like the ability to detect broken glass.

“We’ve built Nest Secure around you and the way you live, so you won’t be able to disarm the system using your voice. With the Google Assistant built in, your security system is now even more helpful,” read an excerpt from Google’s announcement.

The reactions on Twitter were mixed about Google’s intention of building it around “the way you live.” Some were mad at Google, but others were not surprised. 

This controversy is the kind of thing Nest owners feared when the company was acquired by Google in 2014, according to a Forbes report. Buyers who had trusted their home security to Nest worried about them working under Google, who makes money serving ads targeted using personal data they collect.

“A lot of people are made uneasy because they entered an agreement (to share their personally identifiable stream of data) with one company (Nest) but now that agreement has been transferred to another company (Google),” Parker Higgins, an activist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Forbes magazine in 2014.

The Nest acquisition seems to have been less successful than hoped for Google as well. A 2016 Ars Technica story described a company with hundreds of employees, unable to ship a product.

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