Google once again finds itself having to explain that it takes user privacy seriously. This time it is in regards to its Nest Secure system. While it was never previously mentioned that the Nest Guard keypad in that system has a built-in microphone, Google says it was never supposed to be a secret, and it was a simple error that kept that tidbit out of the listed specifications.
That has since been corrected—a visit to the Nest Secure's product page now reveals there is a microphone, under the 'Audio and Lights' category in the specs tab—but it should have been there all along.
"The on-device microphone was never intended to be a secret and should have been listed in the tech specs. That was an error on our part," a Google spokesperson told Business Insider.
Consumers are justified in worrying about how well (or not so well) big tech companies respect their privacy. The Cambridge Analytica scandal that rocked Facebook brought the topic widespread attention, especially after Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress.
Google has also come under scrutiny on more than one occasion. Last July, for example, a report emerged that highlighted the extent of which third-party app developers can access sensitive information of Gmail users. Around the same time, Google was hit with a class action lawsuit over location history settings in its Maps service and Timeline feature.
"As revealed in the recent AP investigation—and confirmed by a team of researchers at Princeton University—Google continues to access and store the precise geolocation information of those individuals who have affirmatively turned off the Location History setting. Google modified—and continues to modify as of the date of this complaint—this and other representations after the publication of the AP Report and the resulting public outcry, as discussed in Section C, infra. 13 5. This conduct violates the California Invasion of Privacy Act," the lawsuit stated.
Failing to disclose the presence of a microphone in one of its Nest products is, if nothing else, a bad look for Google. The company says it built a microphone into the Nest Guard to allow for adding additional security features, such as being able to hear and detect broken glass.
Google insists the microphone has "never been on and is only activated when users specifically enable the option." However, this is the same company that in 2010 admitted that its Street View cars mistakenly collected samples of payload data from open Wi-Fi networks.