Update: Welp, this is officially a full-blown disaster. In response to reports of constantly-recording Google Home Minis, Google is permanently removing the Google Home Mini’s center touch point functionality. The company released a statement tonight, saying:
We take user privacy and product quality concerns very seriously. Although we only received a few reports of this issue, we want people to have complete peace of mind while using Google Home Mini.
We have made the decision to permanently remove all top touch functionality on the Google Home Mini. As before, the best way to control and activate Google Home Mini is through voice, by saying “Ok Google” or “Hey Google,” which is already how most people engage with our Google Home products. You can still adjust the volume by using the touch control on the side of the device.
The total, permanent removal of the top center touch point means you won’t be able to long press on it to begin voice recognition, and you won’t be able to tap on it to pause or resume music, or stop an alarm from beeping. While the Mini still isn’t released yet, apparently the false-positive touch issue is not fixable through software, the Mini’s are too far along to fix the hardware, and Google doesn’t want to rip apart the units that have already been manufactured. Someone messed up big time.
Our original post is below.
The Google Home Mini isn’t out yet, but Google is already dealing with an issue related to it.
Artem Russakovskii, the founder of Android Police, tells the harrowing tale of a Google Home Mini gone rogue. Russakovskii’s pre-release unit, which he picked up from Google’s October 4 event for the tech press, has apparently recorded “thousands of times a day” and attempted to respond to random noises. After swapping the device with Google, Google engineers determined that Russakovskii’s Home Mini had a defective touch panel that was registering “phantom” touch events. The Mini has a touch-sensitive surface, and, to issue a command, you can either say “OK Google” or long press on the top. Russakovskii’s unit was apparently registering touches at random, so it would randomly start recording audio of his home and storing it on Google’s servers.
Google acknowledged the issue on a support page, saying, “The Google Home team is aware of an issue impacting a small number of Google Home Mini devices that could cause the touch-control mechanism to behave incorrectly. We immediately rolled out a software update on October 7 to mitigate the issue.”
For now, Google’s “mitigation” to the issue has been to update all Google Home Minis to totally disable the “long-press to talk” functionality. The company also says it “removed any activity/queries that were created by long-pressing the top of a Google Home Mini between October 4 and October 7, when the software update was rolled out.”
Google says the people affected are those “who received an early release Google Home Mini device at recent Made by Google events.” “Made By Google” events presumably don’t just cover the press event; they also cover the pre-release giveaways that have been occurring at pop-up stores across the US and Canada. The Google Home Mini won’t officially hit store shelves until October 19.
Ars can confirm that our pre-release Mini had the long-touch functionality when we first set it up, and the touch-to-talk feature was recently disabled. Our Mini never went crazy by recording at random.
Russakovskii seems happy with Google’s response. He says the company replied to his initial e-mail within 10 minutes and issued a band-aid patch the day after his report. Disabling touch control isn’t a permanent solution, but it was a fast one. If Google can’t adjust the touch sensitivity through a software upgrade, it might have to recall the units it has sent out. However widespread this issue is (we haven’t seen any other reports like this), the good news is that this was caught before the product hit store shelves. Presumably, Google has warehouses full of units that it can test, debug, adjust, and maybe even delay.