Almost a decade after Infowars first warned that corporations may be spying on computer users via PC microphones, it has now come to light that secretly installed Google software is doing precisely that.
“The Chromium browser – the open source basis for Google’s Chrome – began remotely installing audio-snooping code that was capable of listening to users,” reports the London Guardian.
The software was designed to work with Chrome’s ‘OK, Google’ hotword detection, which functions in response to voice commands given by the user – but in some cases the software was installed and activated without permission.
“Without consent, Google’s code had downloaded a black box of code that – according to itself – had turned on the microphone and was actively listening to your room,” writes Pirate party founder Rick Falkvinge. “Which means that your computer had been stealth configured to send what was being said in your room to somebody else, to a private company in another country, without your consent or knowledge, an audio transmission triggered by … an unknown and unverifiable set of conditions.”
Google has denied the accusations, asserting that users have to “opt-in” before the software is activated, but developers insist otherwise.
“The default install will still wiretap your room without your consent, unless you opt out, and more importantly, know that you need to opt out, which is nowhere a reasonable requirement,” said Falkvinge.
Way back in 2006 we first reported that both the state and corporations were moving to utilize microphones attached to people’s computers to eavesdrop on their conversations, as well as for building psychological profiles for the purposes on invasive, Minority Report-style advertising.
Indeed, that same year Google announced that they were developing software that would use PC microphones to listen to ambient background noise in order to generate “relevant content” for the user.
“Since at least 150 million Americans are Internet-active they will all be potential targets for secret surveillance and the subsequent sell-off of all their information to unscrupulous data mining corporations and government agencies,” we reported nearly nine years ago.
Other companies have also been accused of using voice recognition software to spy on conversations.
Since its launch in 2010, Microsoft’s X-Box Kinect games device has a video camera and a microphone that records speech. The company informs its users that they “should not expect any level of privacy concerning your use of the live communication features,” while Microsoft also “may access or disclose information about you, including the content of your communications.”
Last year, Microsoft was forced to deny claims that the Xbox One’s Kinect camera could see gamers’ genitals after video footage emerged which suggested the device’s IR camera was so sophisticated that it could capture the outline of a user’s penis.
Gamers also complained that Kinect was monitoring their Skype conversations for swearing and then punishing them with account bans.