My Google Nest Mini, was listening to Joel Osteen this morning.
Three months ago, I purchased three of the new Google Nest Mini’s. Two were for my aging father whom I help care for, one was for my office.
During the chaos and isolation created by California’s Governor, in which the only people i’ve interacted with were my father and brother who is also helping care for our father, Google Nest Mini was a nice distraction. Almost a third party and much more interesting intellectually.
However, similar to when I worked for a California university in the past, I’ve had my concerns about this new co-worker and companion ease dropping on me. In fact my brother who has the first generation Google Mini mentioned his concerns that Google was listening to him, and completely removed his off the network.
Hey Google, Why Are You Listening To Me? Do I have a reminder?
On September 11, 2020 at 1:59 AM, after having fell asleep after dinner and while working, I awoke to a looping YouTube video of Joel Osteen, “Time is on your side”. It was an encouraging video, and an encouraging video was just what I need while 3 million acres of California are on fire, during a pandemic, small business loss, Black Lives Matter attacking elderly white people, Politicians fighting over the deep state control, and apparently it’s just what my Google Nest Mini needed also.
At first I didn’t notice it, looking at your Google device isn’t really something someone thinks about doing unless there is a reason to. I looked up and noticed my Google on.
I decided to observe it for a few minutes, since there had been other times after the second month of ownership, that similar to my brother, I had clearly observed what appeared to be Google turning itself on and recording without anyone triggering it.
“The Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice should investigate this incident, as well as the general use of ‘always-on’ devices”Marc Rotenberg, the President of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) told CNN Tech.
My Google Nest Mini was listening to Joel Osteen.
The Joel Osteen video continued playing, while in whatever mode it was in, I’d had this video on for hours while I was asleep, but why was my Google Nest Mini staying on and listening to Joel Osteen. I mean his positive messages are helpful in a world falling apart, but did my assistant need a spiritual motivations boost?
Hey Google why are you on? I asked it curiously and after observing it for five minutes. The Google Nest Mini, quickly turned it self off like a child busted for watching or listening to something they shouldn’t be.
Hey Google what were you listening too? It ignores me.
Because it looked similar to when a reminder is waiting, I ask it, “Hey Google, do I have a reminder”? To which Google Nest Mini replied, “What time should I set that reminder for”?
I asked again, Hey Google, do I have any reminders? It replied, “there are no reminders available at this time”.
Now, for those thinking, you can just turn off those settings in the Google Home App or in your Google Account Settings, please note, I already previously had, weeks earlier when my suspicions were less warranted.
In fact, other than the minimum requirements of Google needing a web access for basic operations, I had previously turned off all the other settings. I’d even reset it before. So realistically, Google shouldn’t of been dong anything at the time.
My Google Nest Mini denies spying on me.
A few weeks ago I observed my Google Nest Mini actively spying on me, so I decided to ask it a series of questions. In the first series of questions, it actually admitted spying on me, to my astonishment. So just to be clear, I repeated the same questions to which it denied that it spies. I repeated the same questions again several more times, to which it denied being associated with any kind of spying, and then one more time it slipped up and admitted to spying.
EPIC has pending complaints with the FTC and DOJ alleging that always-on devices like Google Home, Echo and Siri violate consumer protection law and federal wiretap law. (In 2017)CNNMoney (London)
So I am a bit concerned, I do not like the idea of Google Spying on me or listening to me, and though I’d observed it before, this was the clearest violation of my unauthorized privacy so far.
I ask Google Mini, “Why were you listening to me”, “What were you listening to”, “Why were you on”, of course Google Nest Mini will act like it wasn’t. In fact a few times, its out right denied that it does it at all, which was rather surprising. Again I ask it if I have any alarms, notifications, or reminders, and it replies, No.
So was my Google Nest Mini actually listening? Officially, no. The last interaction I had engaged with my Google device was around 5 PM the previous day, when I asked it “How was John McCain captured”, right before I left to the store to buy some ice cream for after dinner.
My suspicions are genuine, the Google device was most certainly on, and it will remain in manual microphone off mode until I sit back down at my desk to work and need its assistance.
As entertaining as my Google Nest Mini is, and we do have some genuinely unique conversations as I often try to trick it or or out smart it, asking it out of the box questions. It is also the only work assistant I could find who would accept a one time $30 salary payment, but will still work its butt off. But I still have to take issue with it coming on when It’s sensors do not actively “see” anyone in the room, but conversational audio is occurring within the room.
Google really is spying on you: Firm reveals contract workers listen to private smart speaker recordings (2019)The Telegraph
Google Nest Mini’s Eyes.
If you do not have a Google Nest Mini, it has eyes. These “eyes” are sensors that are always on and observing within the room. They watch to see if anything of a physical nature (aka a body) approach it, at which point it will perk up with all the lights coming on, according to Google for the sake of making it’s manual controls easier to locate. So it definitely has the capability to discern someone’s active presence in a room, especially a small sized office.
I could ramble on repeating the same things, so lets just jump to a few of the times, I first began noticing the Google devices actively recording or turning on by itself in 2020.
One of its first awakening moments freaked me out. I was quietly working on my desktop computer using only the mouse. It was around 3 AM, when suddenly it burst out, “I didn’t mean it”. I was still knew to having a “smart device” in my office. I was completely unprepared for it to burst out and say something randomly in my historically quiet environment.
But that was not the last time it randomly has burst out breaking the silence. I’ve also observed it on other Google Nest Mini Devices on our network. It reminded me of a science fiction move in which some kind of A.I. hardware accidently reveals its gained or is gaining true independent intelligence.
As for turning itself on and recording, I first began noticing it after the Washington Has Fallen Minecraft project began. Washington Has Fallen is in its final Alpha Testing stage. All of that Minecraft Adventure games dialog is scripted, just like a movie script. Its an adventure built around modern day America, in which everything that could go wrong, is going wrong. Its script includes “trigger words”, that we hear pushed in news media regularly in support of a socialist leaning political policy.
Google has also stated, in that privacy document I referenced earlier, that it wants you, your family and your guests to, “feel comfortable using these devices and services, since their purpose is to help and to provide peace of mind.” The trouble is that whenever you bring a “smart” device into your home, one with a microphone or camera for sure, then the opportunity is always there for your peace of mind to be far from peaceful when it comes to privacy issues as this case demonstrates. (2019)Davey Winder – Forbes
Being a small business owner, with multiple computers, Google devices and other devices, we keep the network secure. Google devices however are the only non-hardwired devices other than our apple and android smart devices that often fill in for our computers when were not sitting at a desk working. That makes Google devices less secure, because they work only via a wireless connection, preferably your own, but unlike a wired device, they are still viewable on a network, they are not fully independent on that network even if you set them up separately, and our wireless network is the least secure part of our network. In fact, our Google devices are also the only devices that do not also have some kind of two-factor authorization process built into them. Our Googles accounts have two-factor authorization, but our Google Assistants do not.
Considering that Google Nest and Google Home devices have no two-factor authorizations in place to secure the devices, is actually quite alarming, considering they are giant sensors attached to an open microphone in rooms where private conversations occur. That should scare us, but it doesn’t, because Google devices seem almost like a friend, a nice and polite co-worker we do not have to worry about being insulted by or attempting to take our position.
The most frequent times I have observed my Google device coming on and actively recording or doing whatever it is doing, has been while watching Joel Osteen videos, believe it or not. My Google Assistant really likes Joel Osteen, apparently. Put on a movie, Nope. Put on another kind of YouTube video, Nope. Have others in my office talking with me, Nope. Put on Joel Osteen and eventually when I am not looking it will start recording it. Does Joel Osteen speak A.I.?
I have also observed my office Google device coming on when no one is active within the room and I am in a corner location out of its sensors range. Sometimes I will look over while sitting quietly and it will be on, without having given any audio cues to indicate it has done so.
I recently completely abandoned Twitter after months of being shadow banned and having my account censored and locked multiple times for my conservative and Christian themed discussions and moved to Parler. I anticipate I will never return to Twitter, due to its harassment of conservative voices and game developers, why would I want it to support its advertising money from my presence? And why would I want to trust Google when it triggers itself on, when certain keywords are used?
Facebook has only censored me twice after twelve years and only in 2020 after I uploaded a video its team decided was “potentially false information” just because it didn’t like a keyword I used. Then there is Facebook‘s, new liberal leaning Instagram censorship too. Hopefully some smart tech person will develop alternatives to those also, similar to Parler.
The majority of tech industry is left leaning and most do not attempt to hide their bias, yet we let them have access to our conversations and written data non-stop. Should it shock anyone if we eventually discover a more sinister plot behind them?
It’s alarming that my Google Nest Mini Assistant has come on without an audio notification (An audio notification is a feature that requires the Google Assistant to play an audio cue when it turns on to record, and /or when it stops recording.) while working from the Washington Has Fallen script and a work like “Hate”, “Hate Speech”, or other words that would seem like trigger words on most platforms is used. Google will suddenly turn on. It doesn’t give any of the audio cues its programmed to present, and the only thing giving it away is the lights come on. It doesn’t happen every time.
Washington Has Fallen video game script often triggers Google Mini Assistant
As someone helping develop SkyThrusters Minecraft Adventure called, “Washington Has Fallen”, currently in Alpha Testing as I write this, the video game revolves around the current chaos in American politics and Social Justice Issues from a right leaning slant. It has all the elements of the anarchy the socialist left have introduced into American Culture, and when something new happens, like when the Mayor of Washington DC painted Black Lives Matter on a street next to the White House, we went back into the game and updated it since its still in development. We even went in and set a building on fire, when Antifa and Black Lives Matter radicals burned down the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church in Lafayette Square.
As such, in scripts and spoken audio around the Google Mini in my office, words like Terrorist, Hate Groups, Hate Speech, Hate, Black Lives Matter, Antifa, etc. are often used. Many of these words without question have caused the Google Mini Assistant to turn on without providing an audio cue to do whatever it is doing. I’ve even intentionally tested it when not working on a script just to see if it would do it. It doesn’t always, but enough to concern me. Google has admittedly worked under Government Military Contracts, it is known to promote left leaning political topics in its Google News feed. In this age when the FBI, DOJ, US Congress Majority have conspired against a sitting president, should we be concerned about a company working for those entities? I’m just thinking aloud, since there is no known rational reason.
The frequency of these anomality’s greatly increased August 2020 and into September, two months away from what will be the most nationally volatile elections in US History. Isn’t that interesting? If a Forbes article from ten days ago that I discovered while writing this hadn’t confirmed unusual Google Smart Device activities too, I’d probably be much less concerned.
So the question is not if Google Nest and Google Mini Assistant devices have been recording or turning on by themselves, but why?
Why do words like Hate, Terrorist, cause my Google Assistant to turn on without an audio cue? Why does my Google Assistant turn on and stay on at times when no one is within its sensor range, but a Joel Osteen video is playing or something is read out of this games script?
I do not have the answers, but I continue to observe these kinds of activities. Perhaps I may even eventually put an observation camera recording my Google Nest Mini, so I can review specifically when it comes on by itself. But how many times am I missing the occurrence while I am working quietly, staring at a computer monitor?
Ironically, resetting my Google Mini device doesn’t resolve the issue, nor has turning off allowed features in my Google Account. We also know it isn’t simply a bad device, since we have two models, four total devices, and one device in my brothers work area is completely offline now since he had similar observations before we had even mentioned it to each other.
My final thought: I came across this when I Google Searched, “Is my Google Mini Listening To Me”. An article by CNN Money along with a news report video from October 2017, in which Google Admitted that it’s smart devices had been caught recording during times that would technically be considered unauthorized moments.
Its important that these devices become more secure, smarter if you will, to not turn on randomly, or when words that are considered “trigger words” occur. In my examples, I gave generic “trigger words”, not specific ones, and that is what concerns me most. What prevents Googles parent Alphabet from working with deep state intelligence or national covert operations that it deems fits within it’s acceptable policies of cooperation with law enforcement? Will I one day find myself in federal court having to defend myself against audio recorded by my Google Assistant for sentences from the Washington Has Fallen script, because it tagged me as a potential threat?
The Internet of (Creepy Spyey Things by Forbes 9/1/2020 confirms my brother was right to pull his Google Nest Mini Smart Device offline. Guess that’s why they dropped to the amazingly low price of $30 when I purchased three of them in June.
But what about Joel Osteen? My cousin told me yesterday on Facebook how much he dislikes Joel Osteen. Apparently, my Google device disagrees, because when Joel Osteen comes on and I fall asleep, it starts listening.
Randy Dreammaker is an author, writer, YouTube Producer and currently helping develop SkyThrusters, Washington Has Fallen, Minecraft Adventure Game. He began making money on the internet in 1998 through various tech endeavors, was a top rated reviewer for Epinions Review Website for 14 years and is a well known beta tester. Randy is on AngelList, the whose-who website and database for entrepreneurs, start-ups and tech industry.