Google Hit With New Privacy Claims Over Audio Data

Google has been hit with a new lawsuit alleging that its Home devices process audio data, even when users don't give the “OK Google” command.

“Despite its myriad efforts to persuade consumers that the Google Home guards their privacy, Google has never informed users that the Google Home can be activated, record and/or transmit everything in a user’s home even when the user does not use the activation phrase, and even when there were no sounds in the house that sounded anything remotely like the activation phrase,” California residents Edward Brekhus and Jon Hernandez allege in a class-action complaint filed late last week in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California.

The lawsuit comes around two weeks after some Reddit users reported that Google had notified them of sounds indicating threats to their homes -- including breaking glass and a smoke alarm going off.

“Google just made my dumb smoke detectors smart,” one Reddit user posted at the time.

Reportedly, Google had accidentally activated a security feature designed to alert users to security threats.

The company had rolled out that feature, “critical sounds,” in May, but only for paying users of its Nest Aware system.

A software update enabled similar alerts to people without Nest Aware, a company spokesperson told Protcol last week.

Brekhus and Hernandez claim Google has violated federal and California privacy laws.

“Google’s actions constituted a serious invasion of privacy,” the lawsuit states. “These acts constitute an egregious breach of social norms that is highly offensive.”

The company is still facing an earlier lawsuit over claims that its voice-activated assistant recorded users' conversations without consent, and disclosed snippets to third parties.

That lawsuit came shortly after Dutch radio broadcaster VRT reported that Google Home smart speakers and Google Assistant transmitted consumers' conversations to the company, even when people hadn't first given the “OK, Google” or “Hey, Google” commands.

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