Earlier this month, Google announced that it was adding Google Assistant support for the Nest Guard, part of the Nest Secure System.
Surprise! That means there was a microphone in the Nest Guard the whole time… one that was never disclosed on the box, or in any of the tech specs.
That Google has finally acknowledged its “error” in not disclosing the hidden microphone to the consumer is besides the point— the damage has been done and another moment to earn trust with consumers has been squandered.
Google argues that the microphone was “never meant to be secret” and that it is common for security systems to have microphones to, say, pick up the sound of broken glass (Nest Guard does not currently offer that feature, but might soon). And while I get the idea of including something that might make it forward-compatible with new features in the future, what I can’t understand is the audacity of hiding a surveillance feature in a product and not telling the consumer… especially now, as stories of Big Tech dismissing our cries for more privacy and transparency is ever-present on the news.
I know it might sound silly, but this makes me feel heartbroken: While I don’t use Nest Secure specifically, I have Nest products all over my home. The Nest lineup is one of my favorite to recommend to friends, because of its beauty, it’s ease of use and lots of support with installation. And I recommend these products to you, my readers, a responsibility I take very seriously. So when something like this happens, and I know that people are worried about the security of their security devices in their own homes, I am troubled.
Google, makers of Nest and one of the most wealthiest companies in the world, has often passed the security responsibility onto the consumer, just recently telling their customers that they should use stronger passwords and 2-Factor Authentication when setting up their Nest Cams. That’s good advice, Google, but if you are going to make products that know when we come and go, and live stream our living rooms, why aren’t you more responsible for making products that are more secure right out of the box?
Do I think my Nest products are secretly spying on me and listening to my conversations? Honestly, I don’t. But is it getting harder and harder to endorse products that show such a lack of concern about TRANSPARENCY, and disregard for consumers AUTONOMY. Two things that are going to be critical if Nest, and the whole smart home industry for that matter, want to enjoy growth and consumer trust.
Secret microphones notwithstanding, I hope Nest is listening.