Congress Wants Answers Concerning Google’s Nest Microphone Mess-up

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Google Logo From Google Home Page

For the past week, Google-owned smart home company, Nest, has been under backlash due to security concerns. Google forgot to list a microphone in its Nest Security system specs. And now Congress has gotten air of the situation. The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee wrote a letter to Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai, asking six questions which work to figure out whether the microphone could have been accessed by a third party.

Listening In

On February 25th the Senate Commerce Committee wrote to Google’s CEO Pichai asking for some answers concerning its Nest Security device. [1] The device has been equipped with a microphone ever since it was first released, the thing is, nobody knew about the microphone until Google announced that the Google assistant would work on Nest security devices. Which begged the question, doesn’t a device need a microphone for it to react to phrases such as “Hey Google” or “OK Google?”

“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,” [2] a Google spokesperson said.

The Senates letter to Pichai includes six questions and which revolve around the security of the device. “Is Google aware or has Google ever been aware of any third party using the Nest Secure microphone for any unauthorized purpose?” states the second to last question, which leaves little room for anything except a direct response.

More Questions

Other questions have to do with why and how Google released a device without announcing the presence of the microphone. The last five questions are:

“Please describe Google’s process for developing technical specifications for its products. At what stage of this process did the error take place that resulted in the omission of the microphone’s presence in the Nest Secure device? Has Google taken steps to prevent such an error from reoccurring in the technical specifications for other Google products?”

“Is Google aware of similar omissions in the technical specifications for any other Google products?”

“Has a microphone always been a component of the Nest Secure home security and alarm system device?”

“When and how did Google become aware that a microphone was not listed on the Nest Secure’s technical specifications available to consumers?”

“What steps has Google taken to inform purchasers of Nest Secure devices that the device contains a previously undisclosed microphone?”

Google has until the 12th of March to answer the questions. The letter also requests an in-person briefing by the 29th of March.


Notes:

  1. ^Commerce Committee Letter to Google” https://www.commerce.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/8e9148d5-d28a-496b-93ed-d0163a0095eb/B936831ECFD09290AF20FB2044133842.wicker-thune-moran-letter-to-google-02.25.19.pdf (go back↩)
  2. ^Lamkin, Paul. “Congress Demands Answers From Google Over Nest Microphone Blunder.” Forbes, 28 Feb. 2019, www.forbes.com/sites/paullamkin/2019/02/28/congress-demands-answers-from-google-over-nest-microphone-blunder/#1096dba94c12. (go back↩)

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