Google Home users were given the usual rundown of the weather forecast, scheduled events and daily commute. Then, the AI assistant threw in a “By the way”, after which it goes into what anyone with at least a few marbles rolling around in their head would describe as an advertisement for the “Beauty And The Beast” remake.
If you don’t have a Google Home, this is what users were subjected to:
As you might expect, many Google Home owners weren’t too happy to hear that the device they paid $129 for was playing ads, however, this is Google we’re talking about here. When first contacted about the incident, Google tried to deny that it was an ad, stating, “This isn't an ad; the beauty in the Assistant is that it invites our partners to be our guest and share their tales.”
What is somewhat humorous about this, is that Google own response contains a thinly veiled reference to the film with the “be our guest” comment. Unfortunately, irate Google Home owners weren’t exactly buying that explanation.
Google quickly regrouped and put out the following more detailed statement:
This wasn’t intended to be an ad. What’s circulating online was a part of our My Day feature, where after providing helpful information about your day, we sometimes call out timely content. We’re continuing to experiment with new ways to surface unique content for users and we could have done better in this case.
We’re glad to see that Google was swift in its apology, however, advertisements like this — even if Google doesn’t want to call them advertisements — should most definitely be opt-in. We can’t say that we’re totally surprised that Google, which is first and foremost an ad company, would attempt slip something like this by users. However, as Google quickly found out, users might not mind putting with ads on a free service like Gmail, but once you start exploiting their paid hardware, you will receive an earful.