Google removes Home Mini's touch functionality following privacy concerns

Yolanda Curtis
October 12, 2017

Google has chose 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. The touch feature will be permanently removed in an update that should be complete by October 15. A software update was rushed out to disable the feature on all pre-release Home Minis, such as those handed out at the Made By Google media event on October 4. That means the only way to wake the Assistant is by saying OK Google or Hey Google.

He said that he only discovered days after instaling the speaker, it was recording "thousands of times a day" and sending those recordings to Google.

While the Google Home Mini retains its core function of being a voice-controlled smart speaker and home for Google Assistant, it does lock uses into only one mode of control for the device.

According to Artem Russakovskii, founder of Android Police, the device started recording what was happening in a bathroom 24-hours a day.

Google retrieved the spying Home Mini, gave the journalist two more as compensation, and discovered a fault which caused it to detect "phantom touches" nearly all of the time. This raised a serious privacy concern and Google acknowledged earlier this week that the bug affected a small number of units. You can say the words "OK Google", followed by a command such as "play 'Bohemian Rhapsody.'" Alternatively, you can press the button located on the top of the devices instead of saying "OK Google". The Home Mini volume can still be adjusted using the touch control.

Normally, there are two ways to interact with Google's smart speakers, including the Mini.

Just like any other Internet connected device, the Home Mini is also capable of violating privacy. But Google is doing the right thing here by disabling the button. After using the gadget, he went to his Google activity account page and noticed it was populated with audio clips recorded in his home.

You can still tap the top of the speaker to control the volume and mute the Google Home Mini, Google says.

Announced earlier this month alongside the new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones, the Google Home Mini is a compact version of the Google Home smart speaker the company launched in select markets previous year. The company personally sent an executive to collect the device from Russakovskii.

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