Google has quietly installed software which can listen to whatever conversations being held in surrounding your computer when the computer is on. This is actually to cater for the new feature for Chrome whereby if somebody says “OK, Google” in front of the computer then it can respond to it. However, this is considered as a breach of privacy as it is activated without the user’s permission.
The issue first spotted by open source developers, Chromium browser, which is the open source basis for Google Chrome. According to Rick Falkvinge, the Pirate party founder, in a blog post, that without consent, Google’s code had downloaded a black box of code that able to turn on microphone and able to actively listen to your room. This means that what was being said in your room was being sent to somebody else or some private company in another country and it is sent without your consent and under unknown or unverifiable set of conditions.
“We don’t know and can’t know what this black box does”, said Falkvinge.
Google, on the other hand, has responded to the complaints in its developer boards by admitting that they do download the hotword module on startup but they do not activate it unless the users opt in to hotwording. On top of that Google also blamed Linux distribution Debian for downloading the black box of code with Chromium automatically instead of using Google Chrome.
Chromium is not a Google product therefore; the company does not directly distribute it or ensure that it is compliant to various open source policies. However, Google ensure that it is not listening to the users’ conversations and that the feature of saying “OK, Google” in front of Google homepage and Google will automatically responds to whatever you are saying without having the need for you to type in your request is only available if you choose to opt in to the feature.