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Does Google Home Mini's Privacy Issue Set Company Back In Smart Home Race Against Amazon?

13 October 2017, 11:38 am EDT By Vincent Lanaria Tech Times
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The Google Home Mini is one of the company's bets to win the smart home game, but when an early review unit started secretly recording without the user's consent, things got messy.

That's bad enough as it is, but what's even worse is this comes at a time when Google has yet to conquer living rooms and beat Amazon in the race.

Google Home Mini Debacle

Recently, Artem Russakovskii of Android Police found out that his Google Home Mini review unit listened in on and recorded thousands of conversations and sent the data to Google.

A long press on the smart speaker will call Google Assistant, and that was just what was happening on and on. In other words, the root of the problem was traced to that, where "phantom" touches would keep triggering the smart assistant and give it the go-ahead to record audio.

Needless to say, it was only a matter of time before the startling discovery made rounds online.

It's not a stretch to believe that such an incident would make some customers lose confidence in Google, but for what it's worth, the company did almost immediately address it with a solution: disable the long press function permanently via an update, which will roll out on Oct. 15.

"We take user privacy and product quality concerns very seriously. Although we only received a few reports of this issue, we want people to have complete peace of mind while using Google Home Mini," a Google spokesperson told ZDNet.

That's a pretty neat way to wrap things up, considering that users can still call Google Assistant with the wake words "Okay, Google" and "Hey, Google."

But the thing is, there could be buyers who don't follow the news and be left scratching their heads why the long press feature doesn't work to trigger Google Assistant. Put differently, there could also be would-be shoppers who could be overly wary of the smart speaker because of the whole fiasco.

Sure, those situations might be an exaggeration, but they're still a possibility.

Google's Answer To The Amazon Echo Dot

The Google Home Mini is going head-to-head against the Amazon Echo Dot in the $49.99 smart speaker competition, and before all this privacy issue went down, it was shaping up into a formidable contender.

It's got the smarts of Google Assistant that's backed up by years of development in artificial intelligence, and all that is packaged in a donut-shaped speaker. By any standard, something like that has just got to be somewhere in the top end of a spectrum.

So to speak, the Google Home Mini is more or less the company's golden ticket to dethrone the Amazon Echo smart speakers and Alexa.

Google vs Amazon

Some notable recent events between Google and Amazon include when the former disabled YouTube on the Echo Show, a smart speaker with a screen. That's because the latter allegedly violated the terms of service.

As a response, Amazon is reportedly planning on launching programs that'll will not only make its video platforms friendlier for advertisers but also beef them up. It also shaved $30 off the Echo Show to jumpstart sales after they started to decline when YouTube was pulled.

That's not the end of it either, as Target and Google are teaming up for a voice-shopping service to take on Amazon in yet another front.

Long story short, Google and Amazon are at each other's throats in more ways than one.

Making A Mountain Out Of A Molehill

Up until this point, things have been sounding bad for the Google Home Mini, but have we been just taking things out of proportion? That's certainly possible.

At the end of the day and looking past the debacle, the Google Home Mini is by no means a bad product, and the absence of the long press to call Google Assistant shouldn't negatively impact the user experience so much so that the whole package would be a deal breaker.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that the issue came with poor timing for Google.

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