Should tech companies have to disclose products’ full specifications to buyers?
Google Nest users discovered in early February that microphones were built into their $500 home security systems.
Nest’s product specifications have never mentioned microphones, despite the smart-alarm launching in September 2017.
Google swiftly apologised in a comment to Business Insider, claiming their “on-device microphone was never intended to be a secret.” Critics were not satisfied, arguing that failing to disclose such a key hardware feature can only have been intentional.
Almost a decade after Google’s ‘Street View’ cars collected people's web activity, and given that microphones can be hacked, the revelations raise both transparency and privacy concerns.
There’s more. The Google blog post indirectly announcing the microphone’s presence stressed the “Google Assistant on Nest Guard is an opt-in feature”.
But the following sentence is particularly troubling: “Nest Guard does have one on-device microphone that is not enabled by default.”
If one microphone in the Nest Guard collection is not default-enabled, does that mean that all other on-device microphones are default-enabled?
Should companies be allowed to set potentially privacy-compromising features as default?
Credit for this article's header image goes to Getty.