After reports of a built-in Nest microphone, Google admits it was an “error on our part” but a simple apology might not cut it.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is calling on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to make Google divest from Nest, as reported by Business Insider.
In a letter to the FTC, the privacy advocacy group expressed concerns over potential consumer risk, writing, “It is entirely unclear whether Google, a remote hacker, or anyone else enabled the microphones in the Nest devices after they were installed by customers in their homes.”
Google says the microphone has never been on, because it only becomes active when users themselves enable the option. However, Google has struggled with devices recording data without permission before. For example, in 2017, a flaw in Google’s mini speaker allowed it to secretly record conversations without users knowing.
“The FTC should now commence an enforcement action against Google,” the EPIC wrote, “with the aim of divesting the company of Nest and requiring also that Google disgorge the data it wrongfully obtained from Nest customers.”
The EPIC is well aware of Google’s track record since this isn’t the first time the group has taken the company on. In 2010, Google admitted its Street View cars “accidentally” collected personal data through WiFi networks.
After that revelation, EPIC advocated for federal investigators to open an investigation. The FTC did take up a case, but it ended in October of 2010 after Google made “assurances” that it would no longer collect WiFi data.
Now, it seems the EPIC is pushing to make sure Google isn’t let off the hook as easily as before.