Chrome ‘OK Google’ hotwording extension sparks new privacy concerns, confusion (Update: Chromium team backpeddals)

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Update: What’s that? Oh, just the smell of change. After initially standing firm on its implementation of the hotwording module and proprietary Google extension being automatically downloaded in new installations of the Chromium open source browser, a wave of criticism has led to the team pulling it out of Chromium 45 and onwards. The module that manages whether the hotword listening extension is enabled will be “disabled by default” and the proprietary technology that actually listens for “Ok Google” will not download. A member of the team says simply:

In light of this issue, we have decided to remove the hotwording component entirely from Chromium. As it is not open source, it does not belong in the open source browser.

The original story continues below.

It all started with a blinking LED light. Ofer Zelig wrote on his blog today about an odd case where the LED light on his computer, that turns on whenever the microphone or camera is activated, seemed to blink every few seconds or so while he was working on his PC. He investigated in the Windows Task Manager to look for any process that might be to blame – no dice. He shut down some suspicious processes that might have been causing it and says he didn’t have any malware installed, but still to no avail. Turns out, the culprit was none other than Google’s Chrome browser…

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Google is rolling out Hangouts messaging via Google Voice Search

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We’ve received a couple of tips this morning that Android users are now suddenly able to send Hangouts messages via Google Voice Search (a feature which is often mistakingly referred to broadly as “Google Now”). It’s not clear when this long-awaited feature began to roll out, but it seems to be a change that Google is making on the server side…

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Google shows off locked-down user-interface for Android Auto

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We knew back in June that Google’s in-car operating system Android Auto would run with a user-interface designed by Google itself. All developers are able to do is choose a particular template, then send the text and data from the phone app to the interface, so that everything appearing on the car display will have a consistent look & feel. It’s the same approach Google has taken with Android Wear and Android TV.

Arstechnica today pointed us to a developer overview for Android Auto providing a good sense of the visual appearance of the interface. What is shown above is the generic interface, on the left, and an example of how developers are able to customize it on the right …  Read more

Google Search updated with “OK Google” hotword detection everywhere, new Audio History feature

In addition to its slew of announcements at I/O earlier today, Google this evening rolled out a major update its Search app on Android. Bumping the app to version 3.5.14, the update adds several new features, but the biggest is the ability to activate a voice search from anywhere within the operating system. This feature was initially reported on back in April, but is only now making its way to the app.

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Google Voice Search now available on desktop

Voice Search from mobile is now available on your desktop on google.com in English. From the official Google blog:

We first offered speech recognition on mobile search, but you should have that power no matter where you are. You should never have to stop and ask yourself, “Can I speak for this?”—it should be ubiquitous and intuitive. So we’ve added speech recognition into search on desktop for Chrome users. If you’re using Chrome, you’ll start to see a little microphone in every Google search box. Simply click the microphone, and you can speak your search.

And why does Voice Search matter? Well, it’s for showing off, that’s for sure, but you may find it useful for hard-to-spell searches or complex ones that you can speak aloud faster than type. After all, we first learn to talk before we learn how to type, right?

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