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Google disables touch function on Home Mini

12 October 2017

Google has made a decision to "permanently remove" the feature that led its smart speaker "Home Mini" accidentally record several times a day without being given any command from the user.

A reporter for Android Police found that a malfunction in the Home Mini device that caused the touch sensor on the top of the device to register touches nearly constantly, rather than when the user touches it deliberately.

According to Google engineers, the Home Mini in question had a defective touch panel, and was recording the "phantom" touch and events. Rather than wait for user input to tell Google Assistant to listen, the service instead recorded at will, creating a major privacy concern. 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. Google Home Mini comes with the Google Assistant built-in, which can be activated by voice.

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Originally, you could also use the touch panel to control music, alarms, and timers, but this functionality has been ditched too.

The problem with the gadgets was uncovered by early reviewers and those who obtained devices from Google launch events.

The search giant said it would apply the update across all Home Mini speakers by the end of 15 October. In other words, it was recording its surroundings when it wasn't supposed to be. But Google is doing the right thing here by disabling the button. Google says you can continue to use the same functions using your voice by saying "Ok Google" or "Hey Google".

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Google's initial fix was to disable that particular gesture on all Home Minis, despite claiming that only a small percentage were affected by it.

Announced earlier this month alongside the new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones, the Google Home Mini is a compact version of the Google Home smart speaker the company launched in select markets past year. In any case, from now on tapping the device will do nothing, and you'll have to chat to it to get its attention. This means pre-ordered devices were not affected. About 4,000 Home Mini speakers are believed to have been distributed this way.

Google was quick to respond to complaints and discovered that the physical button that can be used to invoke the Assistant was registering ghost touches, thus activating the feature. Google also said that they've erased any recordings made between October 4 and October 7 by faulty devices from Google servers.

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In the meantime, Google allows users to deactivate any existing Google devices from saving audio recordings via its settings page.

Google disables touch function on Home Mini