Google Home Mini Glitch Turns AI Speaker Into Always-On Spy Recording Everything It Hears

Earlier this month Google rolled out some new products that took aim directly at Amazon and the Echo line of devices. Those new Google devices include the Google Home Mini and Google Home Max. The Home Mini is set to launch on October 19 and ahead of that official launch, as Google and other manufacturers normally do, the device was placed in the hands of reviewers around the globe.

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One of those reviewers is reporting that the Home Mini he was writing about was almost constantly recording sounds in his home. For some folks, this might not be a big deal, but all of the audio it records is sent out to Google servers. Google isn't sitting around listening in on all that audio; what the device hears is sent out to servers where the processing magic happens to answer your query and the data is then sent back to the speaker for you to hear. This is how it is able to answer your questions with having to have all the processing hardware for that onboard. Incidentally, this is also how Amazon's AI speakers work.

Normally, the Google Home Mini would sit nonchalantly wherever you place it and ignore you until it hears it's wakeup command that means a request is coming. That wake-up command is normally "Hey Google" or "OK Google" but the device, in this case, had a bad touch sensor on top and it simply listened constantly.

Google has acknowledged the issue and has issued a software update to fix the problem. The tip that the device was listening constantly came in the lights on top of the speaker that turn on when it is listening. That means it wasn't nefariously listening in, it was a simple malfunction. The software fix prevents the activation of the speaker with a touch, which was a feature intended to offer options for activation. The Home Mini will now only wake when it hears the wake word.

Google issued a statement that said, "We learned of an issue impacting a small number of Google Home Mini devices that could cause the touch mechanism to behave incorrectly. We rolled out an update on October 7 to mitigate the issue. If you're still having issues, please feel free to contact Google Support at 1-855-971-9121 to get a replacement Google Home Mini."