Got a smart speaker at home? Google boss says you should warn visitors

A Google executive has surprisingly admitted he informs visitors a smart speaker, like the new Nest Mini is in operation, before they enter the premises.

In an interview with the BBC, that appeared to capture some rare forthright remarks from a big tech figure, SVP of hardware Rick Osterloh said that making guests aware of their presence should “probably” be something the devices themselves should assist with.

When asked whether homeowners had a responsibility to tell guests that a Google Nest or Amazon Echo device could be listening out for their speech, Osterloh was more forthcoming than most would have envisioned.

“Gosh, I haven’t thought about this before in quite this way,” he said. “It’s quite important for all these technologies to think about all users… we have to consider all stakeholders that might be in proximity.

“Does the owner of a home need to disclose to a guest? I would and do when someone enters into my home, and it’s probably something that the products themselves should try to indicate.”

Osterloh did point out Google’s Nest security cameras display a red light to let visitors and residents know exactly when it is recording.

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It’s an admission that not all people are comfortable with having a listening device, and often a live camera, potentially ingesting every word and movement in their own home, or in their friends and family’s homes.

The BBC interview also brings responses to some very pointed and persistent questions on Google’s activity in the facial recognition realm, amid reports Google used homeless people to test its new Face Unlock feature for the Pixel 4 smartphone range, unveiled today.

Calling for facial recognition technology to be quickly regulated, he said: “There’s certainly a key responsibility to make sure the user’s information is protected. But everyone would benefit from clarity of standards and regulation. It is a challenging space to navigate. And it’s very important it’s thoughtfully navigated.”

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