After last week’s privacy blunder involving Google’s Nest home security system, US lawmakers want answers.
On Monday, the Senate Commerce Committee chairman Roger Wicker (MS)sent a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichaidemanding information regarding the tech giant’s failure to disclose a microphone in its Nest Secure devices to consumers.
“In recent years, consumers have become increasingly concerned about the ability of large technology companies to collect and use personal data about them without their consent,” the letter read. “Therefore, it is critically important that companies like Google be completely transparent with consumers, and provide full disclosure of all technical specifications of their products at the point of sale.”
The letter, which was also signed by subcommittee chairmen Sen. Jerry Moran (KS) and Sen. John Thune (SD), referenced aSenate hearing last Septemberwhen Google’s chief privacy officer Keith Enright said that “transparency is a core value of our approach to serving users.”
The recent revelations, however, have caused the Senate committee to question Google on matters of consumer privacy and protection.
“Google’s failure to disclose a microphone within its Nest Secure product raises serious questions about its commitment to consumer transparency and disclosure,” the letter read.
The Senate committee is requesting Google provide written answers to six questions about the initially undisclosed microphone in its Nest Secure devices. Those questions include how and when the company discovered a microphone was not listed on spec sheets for consumers and if the company is aware of any third parties using the microphone in the Nest Secure for “any unauthorized purpose.”
Google has until March 12 to provide written responses. The committee has also requested an in-person briefing on the matter by no later than March 29.
Several lawmakers who spoke to Business Insider last week voiced their concern over the hidden microphone and what the implications mean for consumer privacy.
Senator Mark Warner (VA), a leading privacy advocate and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told us that Google’s failure to disclose the components of its security device is “totally at odds with consumer expectations.”
“The standard talking point that consumers ‘don’t care about privacy’ has been increasingly disproven, as we learn that consumers and policymakers have been kept in the dark for years about data collection and commercialization practices,” Warner said. “Both responsible federal agencies and the U.S. Congress must have hearings to shine a light on the dark underbelly of the digital economy.”
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Kamala Harris (CA), responded to the Nest privacy debacle, telling Business Insider that: “Americans shouldn’t have to fear that the products in their home could be spying on them. ‘It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than seek permission’ or ‘it’s in the fine print’ are not workable privacy policies, but they’re ones that tech companies routinely fall back on.”