U.S. Senate committee demands answers from Google about hidden microphones inside Nest ‘home security’ devices

“After last week’s privacy blunder involving Google’s Nest home security system, US lawmakers want answers,” Nick Bastone reports for Business Insider. “On Monday, Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, the Senate Commerce Committee chairman, sent a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai demanding information about the tech giant’s failure to disclose a microphone in its Nest Secure devices to consumers.”

The letter read, in part:

In recent years, consumers have become increasingly concerned about the ability of large technology companies to collect and use personal data about them without their knowledge. Therefore, it is critically important that companies like Google be completely transparent with consumers, and provide full disclosure of all technical specifications of their products at the point of sale… Google’s failure to disclose a microphone within its Nest Secure product raises serious questions about its commitment to consumer transparency and disclosure.

“The Senate committee is requesting Google provide written answers by March 12 to six questions about the initially undisclosed microphone in its Nest Secure devices, including how and when it discovered that a microphone was not listed on spec sheets for consumers and whether it is aware of any third parties using the microphone “for any unauthorized purpose,'” Bastone reports. “The committee also requested an in-person briefing for its staff on the matter by no later than March 29.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Nail ’em to the wall (for a change), Senators!

If Google cannot track users, their business model is not viable. — MacDailyNews, February 14, 2019

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[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Fred Mertz” and “TK” for the heads up.]

5 Comments

  1. I guessing that this was not disclosed to the FCC, does the FCC not examine the electronics they approve for functionality or accuracy? Is this left up to the honesty of the company submitting the item for approval? I don’t really know how it works but it’s alarming that electronic items are approved by the FCC and they don’t know what is in them and end users have to rely on third parties to discover and have to rely on sites like MDN to report on the issue. Thanks for the continued coverage MDN.

    1. The short answer is, “No, the FCC does not check for anything other than whether the device lawfully uses the public’s bandwidth without interfering with other lawful devices.” The agency isn’t designed as a general consumer-protection enforcer. Any efforts in that direction have been promptly blocked by deregulation efforts.

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