Google Sorry It Forgot to Mention Nest Security Systems Have Secret Microphones

Photo-Illustration: Konstantin Sergeyev/Intelligencer; Photos: Nest; Getty Images

If you own a Nest Secure home security system, you should be forewarned the thing has a built-in microphone. There’s a chance, though, you didn’t know this when you bought it. Mostly because Google never told consumers its devices had such technology inside them. The company disclosed this information, inadvertently, earlier in February when it announced the systems would now work with Google Assistant, Business Insider reports.

What a fun surprise! A piece of tech you bought under the guise of self-protection actually had the capability to spy on you. “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 said. The company says the microphones were never turned on and can only be turned on when specifically engaged by a user. Which is comforting but not that comforting given the whole “we didn’t even know this thing had a microphone we could turn on before this month” thing.

The problems here go beyond the fact that Google’s never said a thing about any microphone — the online description has since been updated, but you can view an archived version here — and broader questions of trust. There’s a running bit about how our devices — phones, Google Homes, MacBooks, whatever — are always listening to us whether we want them to or not. And those are devices we know are enabled with microphones and choose to use in daily life anyway. We choose to believe companies when they say we’re not listening to you (or just decide not to care.) It’s an entirely different thing to ask the consumer to trust a company that couldn’t even be bothered to mention they built in a microphone in the first place.

Google Sorry It Forgot to Mention Secret Microphones