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Congress to Google: How’d you 'forget' about the Nest Secure’s mic?

Do any of Google’s other devices have secret hardware?
Christine Fisher, @cfisherwrites
February 27, 2019
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A week after news broke that Google's Nest Secure system has a microphone no one knew about, Congress is seeking answers from CEO Sundar Pichai. The company's Nest Guard -- a small hub that communicates with other sensors in the Nest Secure system -- has been on the market since September 2017. But it wasn't until Google decided to turn the device into a Google Assistant speaker that consumers knew the device had a microphone. Somehow, that detail was omitted from tech specifications.

Now, Congress wants to know how that could happen and if we should be concerned about any other Google devices. In a letter to Pichai, the Senate Commerce Committee is asking six questions. Aside from getting timeline and intent straight, the questions ask what Google is doing to right this wrong, if the company has omitted anything else from these or other tech specifications, and if Google is aware of any third-parties using the microphone for unauthorized purposes. In other words, Congress wants to know if the microphone was ever hacked, though there's no evidence that's the case at this point.

"Google's failure to disclose a microphone within its Nest Secure product raises serious questions about its commitment to consumer transparency and disclosure," the letter states. Pichai has until March 12 to respond, and Congress has requested an in-person briefing by March 29th.

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