Connect with us

Politics

Senator Warner criticizes Google’s failure to disclose hidden Nest mic

Published

on

On Tuesday, Google apologized for not disclosing to consumers that its Nest security system— specifically, its Nest Guard device — contains a microphone that when enabled, can listen to users’ voices and sync with its Assistant product.

Now, Virginia Senator and Vice Chairman of the Intelligence Committee Mark Warner wants answers.

“This is totally at odds with consumer expectations,” Warner, a Democrat, told Business Insider in a statement on Wednesday. “The standard talking point that consumers ‘don’t care about privacy’ has been increasingly disproven, as we learn that consumers and policymakers have been kept in the dark for years about data collection and commercialization practices.”

The Nest Guard has been on the market since 2017, but news of the microphone’s existence only surfaced when the company announced the Assistant integration in early February.

“The on-device microphone was never intended to be a secret and should have been listed in the tech specs,” a Google spokesperson told Business Insider on Tuesday. “That was an error on our part.”

Read more: Google says the built-in microphone it never told Nest users about was ‘never supposed to be a secret’

Senator Warner said that federal hearings may need to take place to bring more answers to consumer questions about their smart home devices.

“Both responsible federal agencies and the U.S. Congress must have hearings to shine a line on the dark underbelly of the digital economy, including how incumbents are shaping the smart home ecosystem in potentially unfair and anti-competitive ways,” Warner said.

New hearings with top tech execs may be on the horizon

Last December, Google CEO Sundar Pichai spoke before the House Judiciary Committee, answering questions about the tech giant’s secretive efforts to build a censored search engine for China and allegations of conservative bias in the company’s search results.

Months earlier, Google co-founder and Alphabet CEO Larry Page was called to testify in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee along with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, though Page declined to appear. The move drew criticism from a number of Senators, including Warner, who said at the time that he was extremely disappointed” in Google’s decision not to send a representative.

The Nest Guard
Nest

“I know our members have a series of difficult questions about structural vulnerabilities on a number of Google’s platforms that we will need answered,” Warner said back in September. “From Google Search, which continues to have problems surfacing absurd conspiracies … To YouTube, where Russian-backed disinformation agents promoted hundreds of divisive videos … To Gmail, where state-sponsored operatives attempt countless hacking attempts, Google has an immense responsibility in this space.”

With Google’s microphone misstep this week and the rapid adoption of smart home devices among consumers, a new hearing with tech’s top execs may be on the horizon.

Here is the full statement from Senator Mark Warner:

“This is totally at odds with consumer expectations.The standard talking point that consumers ‘don’t care about privacy’ has been increasingly disproven, as we learn that consumers and policymakers have been kept in the dark for years about data collection and commercialization practices. Both responsible federal agencies and the U.S. Congress must have hearings to shine a line on the dark underbelly of the digital economy, including how incumbents are shaping the smart home ecosystem in potentially unfair and anti-competitive ways.”

Got a tip? Contact this reporter via Signal at +1 (209) 730-3387, email at [email protected], or Twitter DM at @nickbastone.

Continue Reading
Advertisement Find your dream job

Trending