By David Meyer
February 20, 2019

If you bought into Google’s Nest Secure home security and alarm system, you probably won’t have realized until this month that the system’s devices contain hidden microphones. That’s because Google forgot to tell you.

A couple weeks ago, Google informed Nest Secure customers that they could use the device to access Google Assistant, allowing them to do things like asking about the weather. That means Nest Secure features a microphone, which was not on the device’s published specs.

The surprise did not go un-noted at the time, but it was only on Tuesday that Google said it has messed up, in response to a query from Business Insider.

“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,” the Nest team said in a statement.

The statement added that “the microphone has never been on and is only activated when users specifically enable the option.” It was installed in the devices in order to support future features “such as the ability to detect broken glass.”

Google certainly did make an error here, given that the company has a history of privacy violations, and a lot of people are rightly nervous about having Internet-connected microphones around their homes. Amazon’s Alexa has suffered repeated security lapses, with researchers figuring out how to turn it into a spying device and Amazon itself accidentally sending hundreds of voice recordings by one user to another user. Mic-equipped connected toys are so notoriously insecure that governments have ordered their destruction.

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