Senator Warner criticizes Google's refusal to disclose hidden Nest mic



On Tuesday, Google apologized for not telling consumers that its Nest security system, especially its Nest Guard device, contains a microphone that, once activated, can listen to users' voices and sync with its product. .

Now, Senator Virginia and the vice-chair of the Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner, want answers.

"It's totally at odds with consumer expectations," Warner Democrat said Wednesday to Business Insider. "The standard argument that" consumers do not care about privacy "is increasingly refuted because we learn that consumers and policy makers have been kept in the dark for years on the Internet. data collection and marketing practices. "

Nest Guard has been on the market since 2017, but the news of the existence of the microphone has only been announced when the company announced the integration of the wizard early February.

"The built-in microphone in the device was never meant to be a secret and should have been included in the technical specifications," said a Google spokesperson at Business Insider. "It was a mistake on our part."

Read more: Google says that the built-in microphone, which he never talked to Nest users, was "never supposed to be a secret"

Senator Warner said that it may be necessary to hold federal hearings to bring more answers to consumer questions about their smart devices.

"Responsible federal agencies and the US Congress must hold hearings to shed light on the dark side of the digital economy, particularly on how incumbents are shaping the smart home ecosystem in a potentially unfair and anti-competitive way." "said Mr. Warner.

New hearings with senior technical officials could be on the horizon

Last December, Google CEO Sundar Pichai addressed the House Judiciary Committee to answer questions about the technology giant's secret efforts to build a censored search engine for China and allegations of conservative bias in the company's search results.

A few months earlier, Google co-founder and Alphabet CEO Larry Page was called to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee, along with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, although Page does not show up. This decision drew criticism from a number of senators, including Warner, who said at the time that he was "extremely disappointed "by Google's decision not to send a representative.

The guard of the nest
Nest

"I know our members have a series of difficult questions about structural vulnerabilities on a number of Google platforms that we will need answers to," Warner said in September. "From Google Search, which continues to struggle to deal with absurd plots … On YouTube, where Russian-backed disinformation agents have been promoting hundreds of controversial videos … In Gmail, where State-sponsored agents are attempting countless hacking attempts, Google has immense responsibility in this space. "

With Google's no microphone this week and the rapid adoption of smart home devices by consumers, a new audience with the most senior technology managers might well be on the horizon.

Here is Senator Warner's full statement:

"This is totally at odds with consumer expectations.The standard discussion point that" consumers do not care about privacy "is increasingly refuted because we learn that consumers and policy makers are being kept secret for years on data collection and marketing practices: Federal agencies and the US Congress must hold hearings to identify the dark underworld of the digital economy, including how historical operators are shaping the smart home ecosystem in a potentially unfair and anti-competitive way. "

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