How far would you go to make your house guests comfortable? Most of us would probably tidy our home, fluff the sofa pillows, and pour a few drinks. However, would you also unplug every smart speaker in your home? Google hardware SVP Rick Osterloh recently remarked that users should warn their guests about smart speakers in their homes.
Osterloh was interviewed by BBC News and was asked his opinion about smart speakers and privacy. When he was asked whether users should tell their guests about smart speakers, he stated, “It's quite important for all these technologies to think about all users... we have to consider all stakeholders that might be in proximity. Does the owner of a home need to disclose to a guest? I would and do when someone enters into my home, and it's probably something that the products themselves should try to indicate.”
Osterloh also pointed out that many smart home devices provide some sort of indication that they are on. For example, Nest products shine an LED light when they are on. Many smart home devices can also be physically turned off or muted.
Google Nest Wifi
These questions about privacy are particularly important since Google announced their new Nest Mini and Nest Wifi. The Nest Mini is an upgraded version of the Home Mini. It includes a cut-out so that it may be hung from a wall, better audio, and an LED light that lights up when a user is close to the speaker. The Nest Wifi is similar to Google Wifi and includes a microphone and speaker. Both of these devices include features that were missing from their predecessors. However, is a Nest Mini owner going to turn-off or remove their device from their wall every time a guest enters their home? For some users, practicality might beat privacy.
The interview also featured questions about Google’s facial recognition tests. Many companies have conducted tests so that facial recognition technology is better at detecting darker skin tones. Google reportedly offered homeless people $5 USD to gather facial recognition data and did not disclose the purpose of their tests. Osterloh admitted, “It's come to our attention there may be some methods that were not approved, not how we would do business.” These tests are apparently under investigation, but there does not seem to be any resolution in sight.