Google Permanently Kills Key Feature On All Home Mini AI Speakers Over Privacy Concerns

What was supposed to be a temporary workaround that was doled out to Google Home Mini smart speaker owners has now turned permanent, effectively disabling a key feature of the device. Users can no longer activate the speaker's Google Assistant by tapping on the unit's touch panel. Following the latest update, the only way to engage the artificial intelligence technology is to say, "Okay Google" or "Hey Google."

Google initially disabled the touch-to-activate feature ahead of the smart speaker's global launch in response to a glitch discovered by reviewers. Under normal circumstances, Google Home Mini would mind its own business and pretty much ignore any surrounding chatter until it received a wake-up command, which could be given verbally or by touching the top of the speaker. However, it was discovered that units handed out to reviewers were listening pretty much all the time, and transmitting that data to Google.

Google Home Mini

The company blamed the disturbing privacy breach on "phantom" touches registered by the touch panel on Google Home Mini speakers. In response, Google issued a firmware update to disable the feature while it worked on a more permanent fix. In the short time that has elapsed, Google has decided to leave the feature turned off permanently.

"We take user privacy and product quality concerns very seriously. Although we only received a few reports of this issue, we want people to have complete peace of mind while using Google Home Mini. We have made the decision to permanently remove all top touch functionality on the Google Home Mini," Google said. "As before, the best way to control and activate Google Home Mini is through voice, by saying 'Ok Google' or 'Hey Google', which is already how most people engage with our Google Home products."

Google says users can still adjust the volume by using the touch control on the side of the device, they just are no longer able to engage its AI assistant through touch.