Google has gone for the extreme step of disabling altogether the top touch panel of its Home Mini smart speakers. This is in response to privacy concerns after some units were found becoming active on its own and listening to all that was being said around it.
Worse still, the speakers were also found recording it all and sending all that it got to hear back to Google’s servers, ZDNet reported. The said feature was supposed to become active on human touch or in response to the phrase – ‘OK Google’, which should launch the Google Assistant to respond to user’s queries. However, a few speakers were found to be getting active automatically, a phenomenon that Google described as phantom touch.
Google had initially responded by temporarily disabling the feature by way of a firmware update. Particular mention must be made of a Home Mini speaker that was doled out during Made by Google event. Owner Artem Russakovskii said the speaker came with an inherent hardware flaw that made it to spy on him 24/7.
Google said their commitment to protecting user’s privacy made them to kill the top touch feature entirely. With that done, the only way users can wake the speakers up is by using the phrase ‘OK Google’ or ‘Hey Google’. Since that is how its Google Assistant is activated in most of Google devices, the above change should not be much of an issue. The move to kill the top tap feature is expected to be completed by Oct 15, Google said.
Everything else with the Home Mini remains just the same, including the side placed touch control for adjusting the volume of the speaker. The basic working philosophy of the Home Mini also remains the same given that Assistant.
However, with the top touch control gone, users henceforth won’t have the luxury to tap on the top of the speaker to control music playbacks, timers or alarms. All of those will now have to be accomplished using voice commands wherever applicable.
Google also said the above change has also been included in the Home Mini support page. Similarly, the help pages too are being modified to reflect the change.