Some users of the new Google Nest are frustrated and concerned about their privacy. The product, which serves as a thermostat, carbon monoxide detector, and smoke alarm, has recently been found to contain a microphone.
We’ll unpack the issue of the mic on Nest, as well as some practical advice on how to adjust the settings on your product if you have one. Understanding the facts about the situation is important, and you can make the determination if your privacy is in jeopardy.
A Mic on Nest: What’s Going On?
People are on high alert when it comes to the privacy of their data as well as their general sense of privacy. The advent of big data, society’s use for it, and technology that can use big data have all led to a point where a line may have been crossed when it comes to what devices record about people.
Despite big tech companies’ claims that their devices don’t record us when we don’t want them to, there’s still a lot of uncertainty in the public eye. There’s no shortage of people who claim to have been talking about one thing with a friend, only to find ads about that thing placed in their search results or Facebook feed.
There’s a lot of speculation about whether or not these companies are being honest. This issue wasn’t helped at all when Google’s Nest was released without listing a microphone in the tech specs.
In other words, Google forgot to list the one item on the device that would cause the most concern for privacy. Whether or not the company actually made a “mistake” in doing this is up to you, but the fact remains that there are microphones on these devices.
If you’re in the process of creating your own app, it’s important that you don’t forget to list important issues such as recordings. Take a look at some expert tips before you begin developing your next app.
What is the Function of the Nest’s Mic?
The microphone is placed on the device as a way to check that the alarms are working.
There is a speaker that lets out the alarm when there is a carbon monoxide issue or smoke present. When the alarm goes off, a sound will ring out and the device will speak in order to alert you of the specific issue that’s happening. So, it will say something like “You are in danger, there is smoke in the house. The police have been notified.”
In order to make sure that those functions work, the device will test them and use the microphone as a measure of how well they’re working. You have the ability to choose when these tests will take place, and you’ll be alerted when it’s about to happen.
The microphone is only supposed to be active while these alarm tests are taking place. In fact, the microphones are only on for a small period of time — roughly four or five seconds.
Is Your Audio Sent Anywhere?
Another great fear among people is that the information recorded by our devices is saved and sent out into giant data banks. Even worse, our information is looked at by individuals trying to learn things or spy on us.
According to Google, neither of these things are true in the case of the Nest. In fact, the information that is recorded by your device is strictly contained to the Nest itself. In other words, the test recordings won’t be sent out by your device, and all the information that’s gathered will stay in your home.
There is information that is moved around throughout the Nest servers, though. This is likely information about temperatures, average levels of different substances, and instances of alarm. That information could be liable to contribute to data banks and large pools of information.
Any recordings that your device takes, though, aren’t going to be sent out into the Nest servers.
How to Turn Off Your Mic
There are a number of ways that you can adjust the settings of the mic on your nest.
First, you can simply choose to skip the automated security tests each month. You’ll receive a notification before every security checkup if your device is connected to Wifi, and you’ll be given the option to skip the test in that alert.
In the case that you forego the automated checks, it’s recommended that you just personally check the device yourself.
The microphone is situated near and connected to, your device’s camera. It is a little unclear on Nest’s website as to how the microphone is used in conjunction with the camera, but it appears that in some situations your camera documents and records visual information with audio information.
In order to turn off the microphone specifically, go to the home screen of your device and select the camera button. You then tap settings, and you’ll be brought to a screen that allows you to control different functions of the camera, including the microphone.
You then tap microphone, and you’ll be brought to a page where you can turn the microphone on or off.
Nest’s Camera and Its Connection to the Microphone
If your device is set up to record video with the camera, you’ll be able to go back into your camera history and view a visual record of what’s been happening in your home. The device is also set up to record visual information with audio recordings.
That means that your microphone is also on when your camera is recording. When you turn your microphone off in the manner described above, your audio recording will also be disabled while the camera is recording.
At the same time, you won’t be able to look over those recordings and hear any audio if you do this. So, if you’re not concerned about the audio recordings in your security footage, go ahead and turn off the microphone.
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