Google is listening to pretty much everything through its Chrome web browser:
It looked like just another bug report. “When I start Chromium, it downloads something.” Followed by strange status information that notably included the lines “Microphone: Yes” and “Audio Capture Allowed: Yes”.
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.
This was supposedly to enable the “Ok, Google” behavior – that when you say certain words, a search function is activated. Certainly a useful feature. Certainly something that enables eavesdropping of every conversation in the entire room, too.
Obviously, your own computer isn’t the one to analyze the actual search command. Google’s servers do. 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’s response to getting busted? Completely blasé, as you’ll see at the link. I’d sum up their response as, “It’s for your own good.” I’m really starting to hate that company.
I use Firefox and Safari as my main desktop browsers, depending on the job at hand. I keep Chrome installed for web applications which still depend on Flash. Normally I refuse to have Flash installed, as it’s a security nightmare and buggy enough to slow down your entire system. Flash has crashed more browser windows than I crashed sorority parties back in the day.
So while I won’t have Flash installed on my main browsers, it comes as an integrated part of Chrome. So on those few occasions when Flash is absolutely necessary, I’ll launch Chrome and use its built-in Flash. Then I get the hell out of Chrome, because I just don’t trust Google and I haven’t for a long time.
It seems my mistrust hasn’t been misplaced.
And as Flash continues its slow death, I’m thinking about removing Chrome altogether.