Google cuts off Nest Hub access to Xiaomi following privacy-busting bug

Update: A Xiaomi spokesperson has got in touch to confirm that the error has been fixed and to “apologise for the inconvenience this has caused to our users.”

“Upon investigation, we have found out the issue was caused by a cache update on December 26, 2019, which was designed to improve camera streaming quality,” the spokesperson wrote. “This has only happened in extremely rare conditions. In this case, it happened during the integration between Mi Home Security Camera Basic 1080p and the Google Home Hub with a display screen under poor network conditions.”

The spokesperson added that this just 1044 users had this integration, and of those only a handful will have had the weak network conditions required to trigger the bug, which likely explains the fact that only one person had captured it.

“Xiaomi has communicated and fixed this issue with Google, and has also suspended this service until the root cause has been completely solved, to ensure that such issues will not happen again.”

The original story continues below.

Google has taken the bold step of temporarily cutting off Xiaomi integration with Google Assistant after a Reddit user reported their Mija smart camera was drawing in stills from other peoples’ live feeds.

The issue was first flagged on the Xiaomi subreddit, where a user named Dio-V showed at least eight examples of stills appearing on his or her Nest Hub when asked to show a local camera feed. 

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Each image would only appear for a second or so – and often in a corrupted state. Despite this, some of the examples clearly show some identifiable features – and, in a couple of cases, people. Both a man napping in a chair, and a snapshot of an infant in a cot flashed up on screen.

Given the images feature Xiaomi branding but different timestamps, Dio-V believes that the camera stills are being drawn from far away countries in different timezones. It’s also possible that this is some testing environment that has ‘leaked out’ and is inadvertently showing on Dio-V’s smart screen by mistake.

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In any case, Google has stepped in to take action while both companies investigate what is going on. “We’re aware of the issue and are in contact with Xiaomi to work on a fix,” the company told Android Police. “In the meantime, we’re disabling Xiaomi integrations on our devices.”

The swift response to a report from one user might seem like astonishingly good customer service, but Google doesn’t want to be seen to be taking chances with privacy issues and Google Assistant. Last year, the company fixed a camera bug that meant pre-owned Nest cameras could still be tapped into by the previous owners, and Google was also forced to apologise after neglecting to mention the built-in camera on Nest Secure systems

Suffice it to say that appearing on top of privacy is essential for a company that aims to push more microphone-filled devices in 2020.

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