Smart home products like smart speakers and smart displays have always been viewed as a potential privacy threat among some users. Recently, a Reddit user noticed that his Google Home smart speaker was able to detect a smoke alarm without having permission to do so.
For the uninitiated, Google offers critical sound detection including smoke alarm as part of its Nest Aware subscription. However, in this case, the Reddit user had the feature enabled although he didn’t have a subscription to access it.
“Burned something in the kitchen and the cheap $10 smoke detector went off. Then I got a notification on my phone that google heard the smoke detector going off. Pretty rad google,” wrote the user.
Right after Google became aware of the situation, the company informed Protocol that the feature was accidentally enabled to users who are not part of Nest Aware subscription. In addition, the feature has since been rolled back.
“A recent software update enabled these alerts on some of our speakers that didn’t have a subscription, but we’ve since rolled that back,” a Google spokesperson told Protocol.
Apparently, this is not a single incident. There are other user reports suggesting that the smart speaker recognized sounds of glassware breaking, which is another feature part of Nest Aware subscription.
All these are happening at a time when Google acquired a 6.6% stake in American home security provider ADT at $450 million. It remains to be seen if Google has plans to offer critical sound detection outside the Nest Aware subscription in the future.