Burger King’s newest advertisement designed to trigger viewer’s smart devices attracted a lot of criticism, and Google ended up disabling the command that the commercial used. Now, it seems that the ad may open both Google and Burger King to legal trouble on top of the PR hit. According to a report from Bloomberg, various figures in the law world are saying that the nature of the advertisement and the questions it raises do not exactly bode well for the two businesses involved.
The ad in question took advantage of a controversial flaw in Google Assistant; the fact that it can be used by third parties. Ideally, only the device owner and those that they allow to set up a voice profile could use such a gadget, and an upcoming update to the Google app seems to bear code that points to such a change. The issue is that for now, the security and privacy implications are fairly clear and quite alarming. Already, at least one lawyer, Faith Kasparian of the law offices of Morse, Barnes-Brown & Pendleton, has said that she could see this controversy opening Google to an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regarding the way in which the Google Assistant and Google Home work, adding that Burger King could also see legal trouble from Google.
The controversial advertisement shines a spotlight on a long-standing problem that Google Assistant had from the start, as well as a particularly troubling facet of it that only pertains to Google Home. Google Assistant on a phone can be trained to only unlock a device and use personal commands or information when the right voice is directed at it, but anybody saying OK Google could potentially bring a Google Assistant-compatible device to life and make it accept a command, even if it may not be able to execute that command without unlocking the device. Google Home, on the other hand, is always listening, and can be activated and used by anybody at all. Most of the system’s security hinges on a given Google Home unit only being within earshot of people who have some business using it. According to lawyers, regulators in the U.S. and abroad are likely going to investigate that particular matter soon.