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U.S. senators want answers from Google about its secret Nest microphone

U.S. senators want answers from Google about its secret Nest microphone
[Photo: courtesy of Nest]

Earlier this month, the world found out that it looked like Google took a page right out of the 1984 playbook when it was discovered the company hid a microphone inside its Nest Guard home security system and didn’t tell anyone about it. People only found out about the existence of the hidden mic when Google casually revealed that a software update to Nest Guard would bring Google Assistant, the company’s virtual assistant, to the product.

After the revelations about the hidden mic came to light, Google quickly apologized for not disclosing its existence earlier and said the microphone had not been used “up to this point.” But Google’s apology hasn’t done much to quell the concern from lawmakers.

As the BBC reports, now three senators–Roger Wicker, chair of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation; John Thune, chair of the Subcommittee on Technology, Innovation, and the Internet; and Jerry Moran, chair of the Subcommittee on Manufacturing, Trade, and Consumer Protection–want answers about when and how Google became aware that it had not informed customers about Nest Guard’s hidden mic.

The trio wrote a letter asking Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, to clarify the situation. In the letter, the senators write:

“In recent years, consumers have become increasingly concerned about the ability of large technology companies to collect and use personal data about them without their knowledge.

“Therefore, it is critically important that companies like Google be completely transparent with consumers, and provide full disclosure of all technical specifications of their products at the point of sale.”

The senators also noted that Google’s failure to disclose the microphone to users “raises serious questions about its commitment to consumer transparency and disclosure.” They have requested a written response from Google by March 12.

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