There has been a substantial increase in the adoption of Google smart home devices by US households in recent years. The direct correlation smart homes have on home insurance prompted vHomeInsurance to analyze the legal disclosures of Google to better understand the data collected by Google smart home products and its implications.
Google, through its recent blog post, announced that Google Assistant would allow its users to control more than 40,000 household devices, manufactured by more than 5,000 partnered companies. Google has so far filed 125 patents related to smart home devices. Statistics show that Google would dominate the smart speaker market by 2020, with a global market share of 48%.
Google claims that it collects data from its users only on receiving their consent. Google shares the data collected from its users to third party companies to improve their services. For example, Google shares audio recordings and video footage to home security agencies to enhance security and surveillance systems. Similarly, it shares data about ambient light, temperature, and humidity to energy utility companies. Google claims that the data will be shared with outside parties only on a need to know basis.
Google Home and Nest Hub process voice queries and records data only after they recognize the keyword, “Ok Google” or “Hey Google.” Once the device is active, they record every conversation that happens in the household. However, Google stated that only 0.2% of all recorded audio snippets are reviewed by language experts to improve the speech recognition feature in their speakers. Google had claimed that ambient conversations won’t be stored on the cloud server.
Although, it has been revealed that Google smart home devices record conversations without the knowledge of household residents. In one incident, Google Home Mini got activated without the keyword and started recording conversations. In response, Google claimed that it was due to a software glitch and that the issue had been sorted out.
Furthermore, authorities at the US Federal Trade Commission had hinted that they would inspect the privacy policies of Google Assistant. The inspection would be focused on the data collected by smart devices about children, and whether or not they are in line with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The inspection is considered to shed more light on the data collected by Google smart home devices and how they intend to use the data.