Google Says You Should Tell Guests About Your Smart Home Devices

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Google hardware SVP Rick Osterloh reportedly thinks that house guests should be warned about in-home smart devices. That’s based on comments Mr. Osterloh made during a recent interview with the BBC when asked about the proposition.

The executive not only indicates that telling guests about his smart home speakers, displays, and cameras is something he personally does. Mr. Osterloh also says that it’s “important” that technologies are considerate of all users. That includes any and all “stakeholders” that might be in proximity to one of those devices.

The implication seems to be Google does take unwitting participants in its ‘improvement’ programs into account to a certain extent. But it also seems that Google hasn’t given much thought to the prospect, despite an apparent push to make all of its policies and practices align with the digital wellbeing of end-users.


Google doesn’t seem to have thoroughly considered guest privacy

Google, or at least Mr. Osterloh, doesn’t seem to have put much thought to the proposition outside of the Nest-branded security cameras it sells. Those feature an LED when they’re recording to indicate that recording is going on. That light can’t be turned off either.

In fact, Mr. Osterloh appears to admit that it isn’t something he’s thought much about. The executive explains that telling guests about smart speakers or cameras in the home is both something he “would” and does “do.”

That’s followed by a statement that the devices should also be designed to try and call attention to themselves. Presumably, that should apply to all in-home smart devices and not just those made by Google. But, so far, Google hasn’t done a great job of making that obvious either.


For starters, its smart home speakers, including the latest run of devices announced earlier this week, don’t necessarily alert users to their presence. A wall-mounted smart speaker such as the new Google Nest Mini might be fairly obvious. But users are able to turn off audio indicators that tell when a device is listening in the app settings for the device and its counterparts.

Google also doesn’t go out of its way to tell buyers that they should be informing their guests about its products.

Privacy has become a primary point of focus for Google

Exactly how Google might go about addressing guest privacy hasn’t been clarified, if it chooses to.


The company may need to find some way for a user’s smartphone to alert them to the presence of nearby smart devices. Conversely, users may end up relegated to putting up with annoying audio cues whenever their AI-powered smart home device is activated to warn guests.

Privacy and data security have become central world-facing tenants for the company over the past several months. The company doesn’t seem to have reached those goals on its own either. The change follows a number of investigations over its practices and policies on the matter.

Regardless, the company has taken plenty of steps in that direction. But Google still has plenty of work to do. Especially if it hopes to cue visitors in when they are entering a home or business that may record their voice interactions with speakers or video data via cameras.