Google’s Alexa-like speaker called Google Home hasn’t yet arrived here, but it’s made a bit of a splash in western markets. The device, so far, is available in a limited number of countries and frankly speaking, it will just act as a loudspeaker for Google’s Assistant, something that can even be achieved from your Android smartphone, which is handier on your smartphone.

Google Home is activated by a voice-trigger, you, as a user, will need to say  the words, “OK Google” to wake up your home and then follow that up by speaking out your query. For example, “OK Google. What’s the weather like today?” On hearing this, the speaker will give you a roundup of the day’s weather.

While this may sound convenient, an advertisement campaign pushed out by Burger King in the US not only annoyed Google Home owners, but even gave them their first glimpse of device hijacking.

The fifteen second ad shows a Burger King employee trying to explain what goes into a Whopper (a type of burger that the company sells) comes as a bit of surprise to viewers when he halts, then leans into the camera and says, “OK Google, what is the Whopper burger?”

The prompt activated thousands of Google Home devices and supported Android smartphones in American homes and involuntarily got them to respond to the query. And this happened every time the advertisement played. Google Home’s answer came from Wikipedia which briefly described the ingredients that make a ‘Whopper’ a Whopper.

A little over two hours later, Google Home’s stopped responding to the Burger King TV advertisement. According to The Verge, Google, in all probability, registered the sound clip from the ad and disabled the trigger. It has been doing the same for all of its Google Home commercials, if you haven’t noticed that already.

While Burger King’s president Jose Cil told BuzzFeed News how it was “cool to connect directly with our guests”, I am pretty sure it must have made plenty of owners realise how open a Google Home actually is to answering any query, even if it means revealing your personal schedule to a third person.

Many, like myself, were impressed at Burger King’s marketing skills at first, but it’s not exactly “cool” when it continues to happen repeatedly and also gives Google Home owners a glimpse into how easily a Google Home device can be hijacked. More importantly, as BuzzFeed also discovered, that Burger King ad was not made in partnership with Google.

Google Home Google IO 2016 (2)
Google Home

And that’s were the problem with a voice assistant lies, its inability to differentiate between voices. So if you happen to use a Google Home at work, it is extremely easy for someone to take down your day’s schedule without any voice authentication or user identification in place. Mind you, this works not just for Google Home (which is Google Assistant in your house in a speaker), but with Google Assistant on your smartphone, Siri on your iPhone and even Amazon’s Alexa. Amazon and Google are working hard to make this voice authentication possible. They are called voice tags and they’re meant to automatically link a voice to particular person allowing for multiple user profiles on a single smart home device.

But as of today, your smart virtual assistant will willingly take orders from anyone. It’s just that on your smartphone, there’s fingerprint authentication to prove that it’s you who is asking for a phone number.

Add to this the advertisement’s invasion of your private space. For now, it’s just a burger, tomorrow it could be something bigger altogether. Indeed, you will have to wait until Google adds the sample audio trigger of the next ad in its database to ensure that it does not trigger your Home device again.

Does this make you feel silly that you have paid Google for a device that was supposed to make your life easier, but is now simply complicating it and involuntarily throwing ads at you?

Sound off in the comments below.

Publish date: April 13, 2017 1:18 pm| Modified date: April 13, 2017 1:18 pm

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