Google accused of using its Google Home devices to record user conversations without permission


A new lawsuit against Google LLC claims Google Home, Home Hub, Home Mini, and Google Nest record users conversations without owners consent or knowledge

It is a season of class-action lawsuits against Google LLC. On Friday, Edward Brekhus and Jon Hernandez have filed a new class-action lawsuit against the Internet search giant accusing it recording users of its voice-activated Home devices without permission. The lawsuit has been filed under the California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA) and other hosts of acts under California.

The plaintiffs have demanded a trial by jury to hold Google guilty of spying and recording Google product owners’ conversations and relaying it to Google servers without their permission or knowledge. The lawsuit states that Google’s popular voice-activated devices like Google Home, Home Hub, Home Mini, and Google Next should only be activated if the product owners/users say the phrases like “Hey Google” or “ok Google,” which are “hotwords” and signal an intention by owners/users to interact with Google Home products.

The plaintiffs accuse that Google activates these devices even if users don’t say phrases such as “Hey Google” or “ok Google,” which is a violation of California’s landmark privacy law, CIPA, and other laws. The lawsuit cites reports from Google Home users that they got alerts on smartphones about a smoke alarm or broken glass. The lawsuit claims that this information that allegedly only could have been obtained by “surreptitiously recording audio.”

The lawsuit says that Google Home products contain a sensitive microphone that can pick up sound throughout much of a user’s home. The lawsuit alleges that Google consistently promises Google Home products buyers that it will not record or process their conversations or other audio unless they use the hotwords. The plaintiffs further claim that due to Google’s representations, many Google Home product consumers think that their conversations and other audio would not be recorded and/or sent to Google without their authorization. The lawsuit alleges that Google representations are false and misleading and Google, in fact, has configured the Google Home products to record, retrieve, and process audio throughout users’ homes—even when users did not do anything to activate it.

The lawsuit relies on the research of Professor Douglas Schmidt, who has studied Google’s user data
collection and retention policies. In a Wired article, Professor Schmidt says that Google’s “business model is to collect as much data about you as possible and cross-correlate it so they can try to link your online persona with your offline persona. This tracking is just absolutely essential to their business. ‘Surveillance
capitalism’ is a perfect phrase for it.” The lawsuit also cites other examples to state that Google Home products record users’ conversations without their permission and relay it back to Google servers.

The plaintiffs have demanded damages from Google LLC in excess of $5 million for surreptitiously recording their conversations without their consent through Google Home products. The lawsuit bearing No. 5:20-cv-05488 against Google LLC was filed on Friday, 7th August 2020.

Google has not commented on this class action lawsuit.


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"The Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn't understand, the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had." Eric Schmidt

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