Google faces Senate grilling over secret Nest Secure microphone

Facebook can probably take a short breather thanks to Google. The search giant may be the latest target of scorn and inquiries over something that could have probably been easily avoided with a footnote or an inconspicuous line of text. Google has been sent a letter from the US Senate Commerce Committee demanding answers regarding the existence of a microphone on its Nest Secure system that remained undisclosed until earlier this month.

This isn't like a vulnerability that Google only recently discovered. It knew that when it shipped the Nest Secure system, the Nest Guard base contained a microphone that, according to Nest, remained unused until Google rolled out Google Assistant integration at the start of February. And that's when the questions started rolling in.

Nowhere in any official documentation did it inform users that there was a mic sitting silently in their homes. US lawmakers that make up the Senate Commerce Committee now want to know whether Google was actually aware of that and, if it wasn't, when it became aware of what could have been a clerical error only. The Senators, however, also want to know what Google is doing to inform Nest Secure owners of that fact, presuming they haven't read yet this scandal surrounding the product.

Google and Nest, of course, would deny that the mics have ever been used before the update rolled out this month, perhaps expecting consumers and lawmakers to take their word for it. The questions, however, do bring up an interesting point. Google may have not used that mic, but what are the chances someone else has? Then again, if a hack discovered the existence of that mic in the first place, the news would have broken out earlier.

There seems to be a growing number of cases where recording components are being discovered in places where they either should not have been or have not been made apparent. Airlines such as Singapore Air, Delta, and United Airlines have confirmed that their in-flight entertainment systems now do have cameras built into their displays. All of them promise that the cameras have been disabled until they are enabled for future features. None of them, however, even disclose their existence to passengers.