back to article Google wants to listen in to whatever you get up to in hotel rooms

Google wants its Nest Hub to become a fixture in hotel rooms so that guests can enjoy their stay without having to actually touch any of the amenities they are paying for. The device, which is being piloted in several hotels across the US and the UK, offers guests the chance to replace calls to hotel staff with a Hub device …

  1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

    Okay Google:

    Where's the nearest hardware store to this hotel? I want to buy a lump hammer...

    1. Chloe Cresswell

      Re: Okay Google:

      I take it a 16lb one for 1st degree googlcide? Because like the toaster, it won't be an accident...

      1. The Central Scrutinizer

        Re: Okay Google:

        So you're a waffle man!

        1. DBH

          Re: Okay Google:

          How about a toasted teacake?

          1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

            Re: Okay Google:

            And now I'm left with the question over what happens when a hive hub (surely that's just a bee hive?) gets upgraded with a religion chip?

            1. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
              Paris Hilton

              Re: Okay Google:

              Could be interesting times with the potential "Oh God! Oh God! Oh God!" moments from, erm, adult activities.

              Then, of course for those without adblockers, all the ads for flowers, cheap divorce, motorcycle parts etc.

              No secrets - she knows what it's about ------------------->

    2. tony2heads

      Re: Okay Google:

      They might charge you for the damage. If the cable is long enough I would move it to outside the window and let it pick up traffic noise and if it is too short cover it with cushions, old socks, underwear and anything else that comes to hand

      1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

        Re: Okay Google:

        Natürlich, aber ich mache eindeutig einen Witz. In Wirklichkeit würde ich es wahrscheinlich einfach ausstecken.

    3. spold Silver badge

      Re: Okay Google:

      OK Google - send up an ice bucket please...

      Remember to blast it with the hairdryer and put it back in place prior to departing.

    4. Version 1.0 Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Okay Google:

      Easy fix - play Werewolves Of London by Warren Zevon next to the microphone and see what turns up.

      1. IceC0ld Silver badge

        Re: Okay Google:

        Easy fix - play Werewolves Of London by Warren Zevon next to the microphone and see what turns up.

        OR, anything by Bjork, and watch the system implode :o)

        Google says the device has no camera and its mic can be switched off ................

        for ME, I want it so the mic has to be switched ON as the default setting, I used a LOT of hotels as part of the work done, got the Gold / Platinum member card for a couple of the big chains, and I do NOT want anything listening in to my conversations, generally classed as SECRET.

        who thinks of these ideas ?

        and who makes the default ON

        simple setting change, and someone WILL use / require it, I have NO idea why you would want / need it though

    5. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
      WTF?

      Sounds like a great birth control app

      Who'd have thought?

      1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

        Re: Sounds like a great birth control app

        Google, Alexa, Siri, Cortana et.al. probably would be able to tell which is the best time for conceiving by the subjects under their watch by virtue of monitoring past behaviour, environmental factors, personal/fitness tracker data, purchasing history etc

      2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

        Re: Sounds like a great birth control app

        Google Assistant: Attention! Attention! Get ready for coïtus interruptus in 5,4,3,2,1, Now!

  2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Weasel wording alarm

    "any activities will be wiped from the device when it's reset for the next guest"

    Is it possible to delete anything the device hears from Google's cloud storage?

    1. Immenseness
      Devil

      Re: Weasel wording alarm

      Voiceprints are pretty unique, so after using your phone and other home devices to work out which voiceprint ties with your identity, identifying who is in a hotel becomes fairly simple, even if you don't ultimately store the cloud data (but who believes that won't happen?). It also becomes easy to "hear" who else is there with you.

      Of course you could mitigate this and maybe enhance your reputation somewhat by carefully selecting which film to watch loudly I guess!

      1. Wade Burchette Silver badge

        Re: Weasel wording alarm

        I can see it now ... Google Hotel displays message "Welcome to the Hotel Bob Smith. Enjoy your stay." The hotel, of course, puts some information into their computer so that it knows who is staying there.

        Google then looks through its database for a Bob Smith. It, of course, finds many but it is a good start. If Bob Smith used a Google assistant, it will be trivial for Google to voice match this Bob Smith to all the ones in the database. Bam, more "relevant advertising" on the way!

        Or ... Google Hotel displays message "Welcome to the Hotel Bob Smith. Enjoy your stay. For a better experience, download the Google app for your phone and enter this code: C R E E P Y". Bam, now Google knows bobsmith123456789@gmail.com is staying here, no need for voice match. More "relevant advertising" on the way!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Weasel wording alarm

          > Google Hotel displays message "Welcome to the Hotel Bob Smith. Enjoy your stay."

          And would you like to me like me to let your wife know your late meeting has been moved to this hotel? Oh and Joan Greegross, I can let your husband know, he was asking where you were.

        2. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
          Gimp

          Re: Weasel wording alarm

          Or.. "Bob Smith last time you where here you searched for the local services of 'LocalDom2000' would you like me to reserve a booking again?"

          I don't think the wife would be impressed...

          That said after the initial request it'd only pick up muffled grunts...

    2. Mike the FlyingRat
      Black Helicopters

      @Flocke Kroes Re: Weasel wording alarm

      Bingo!

      And if caught... it was that mysterious engineer X who made that bad code ...

      Now think of all of the corporate espionage Google could do... they know your flights, possibly your hotel reservation. They know your location from your phone or laptop when it goes on the net.

      So they could now seamlessly bug your hotel room without your knowledge.

      Do you realize how many phone calls and work happens from within a hotel room?

      Naw, Google isn't evil...

      1. Eclectic Man Bronze badge

        Re: @Flocke Kroes Weasel wording alarm

        May years ago I heard of a US Army conscript all of whose code mysteriously refused to work the day after he was discharged. (A long prison sentence resulted.)

        I do sometimes wonder what the Apple, MicroSoft, Google, Facebook, and Twitter micro-serfs might be getting up to. Of course, they are not conscripted, and, silly me, they obviously work in a totally harmonious and respectful environment with wonderful management. So ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT AT ALL.

        <Where's my tinfoil hat? I had one with a propeller on it somewhere.>

  3. muddysteve

    I hope the hotels will advertise this additional feature.

    Then I can go elsewhere.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      GDPR

      Presumably in Europe and the UK, they are legally obliged to make this clear and explicit or otherwise they will be violating the GDPR.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: GDPR

        More than that. To avoid violating GDPR they'll have to make its use opt-in.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: GDPR

          .. at which point the collection of voices nearby will be entirely "by accident", as will be the ready coincidental availability of the back end to store it all.

          If you think that's far fetched, you ought to do a search for Streetview Wifi.

          Plus ça change and all that.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: GDPR

            Streetview Wifi pre-dated GDPR.

            1. Eclectic Man Bronze badge

              Re: GDPR

              But not the Data Protection Act, I believe (lawyer-type people please correct me if I'm wrong).

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: GDPR

                Correct - and other privacy laws already in existence.

                Even without the Wifi data theft which is in truth already a criminal offence in many countries (hence the hasty need for the "accident" BS), Google already got itself into plenty problems with Streetview which obliged it to blur people and license plates in some countries, and in Japan it was required to zap anything that looked over fences of (I think) fences of 180 cm and above as those were quite clearly established for privacy.

                In short, "privacy" is a concept only recognised by Google if it lines them up for a hefty fine.

  4. Chris G Silver badge

    Concierge

    Aside from all of alarm bells ringing that Google should have any access to whatever you are doing in a hotel room, Google is unlikely to ever be able to duplicate the job that any reasonable Concierge can do.

    Most of them, aside from being able to access various sources to fulfill your needs, often have personal knowledge of those recommendations and personal relationships with many of the people who run those recommendations.

    " Hey Google! Self destruct now!"

    1. Andy Non Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Concierge

      OK, this device will self destruct into a flaming inferno inside your room in 5 seconds... As a courtesy to other hotel guests your room door has been automatically locked.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Concierge

      "personal relationships with many of the people who run those recommendations."

      Strictly business.

    3. logicalextreme Silver badge

      Re: Concierge

      Oh god, a Google Concierge. Presumably you'll have to somehow surround your requests with double quotes to avoid the "did you mean…" functionality; and if it's anything like the search engine there'll still be a good chance that it'll silently ignore you and bring you pasties instead of pasta anyway.

  5. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    I will not stop at a hotel with this type of crap installed

    Full stop.

  6. Scott Broukell

    So that would be like staying in a 4 Stasi hotel then.

  7. Peter Galbavy

    "No, sorry, I didn't realise the devices cable had been cut when I entered the room that first night. Must have been a previous occupant."

    1. LDS Silver badge

      "Evidently there was a rat in my room. I want your excuses and a refund".

  8. uro

    It's not just Nest devices..

    In a recent update to the Youtube app on iOS devices the app now requests access to your microphone in order for you to "Tell us what to search for giving you more accurate results by using your microphone".

    While that may sound convenient for the great uninitiated, where privacy is concerned I'd rather not have a web-app listen to what im saying whenever it wants to and especially not from a data slurper such as Alphabet.

    iOS does give you the option to not permit this of course, but I do wonder just how many people have tapped through the request popup and allowed it while not realising the full implications of giving unfettered microphone access to one of Alphabet's apps.

  9. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Just unplug it

    No reason to change your travel decisions because of this little nuisance. Find one in your room ? Unplug it and the problem is solved.

    1. Olafthemighty
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Just unplug it

      That's exactly what they want you to think...

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Just unplug it

      Good job there is no such thing as a rechargeable battery!

    3. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Just unplug it

      How long will it be before they do one of three things:

      Option 1: Build the unit into the wall, like they do with a lot of the other things, so you can't steal it but also you don't have access to the plug.

      Option 2: Build the microphones into the room so audio reception is superior, which you can't see.

      Option 3: Put the assistant into something else which you can't easily turn off or which has backup power. It becomes necessary to try to thwart it by dampening the sound.

      1. DS999

        Re: Just unplug it

        Option 3: Put the assistant into something else which you can't easily turn off or which has backup power. It becomes necessary to try to thwart it by dampening the sound.

        Google will "helpfully" sell a combination smoke detector and spy gadget, so that it has reason to blare an alarm if you try to cover it up.

      2. logicalextreme Silver badge

        Re: Just unplug it

        Option 1 is good. It could be bundled into the TV. We could call it a "telescreen".

  10. s. pam
    Megaphone

    Reminds me of the time

    I called my brother on FarceTime and heard him say "Alexa turn music off".

    I immediately followed up his utterance with "Alexa order 600 rolls of toilet paper".

    2 hours after our call I got a rather terse email from said brother with a screenshot of his Amazon cart with -- 600 rolls of toilet paper ready to be purchased.

    Putting these privacy invading devices in hotel rooms should be a right giggle!

    1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

      Re: Reminds me of the time

      You forgot to say "confirm purchase".

      1. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
        Pint

        Re: Reminds me of the time

        That was way funnier than it should be. Have a couple on the house ---->

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I immediately followed up his utterance with "Alexa order 600 rolls ...

      If it was about six months ago, that could have been quite helpful at getting in before the rush :-)

    3. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: Reminds me of the time

      For those interested in actually playing shenannigans, note that Alexa limits quantities to 12 for orders, to prevent exactly this sort of thing happening. Also, there are two confirmations needed before an order is actually made. The correct way to do it is:

      "Alexa, order 12 kg of marshmallows."

      "Yes"

      "Yes"

      Assuming it's all been left at the default settings, saying "confirm purchase" won't do anything, and trying to order more than 12 of anything will just make it complain that you're trying to order too much.

      1. MiguelC Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Reminds me of the time

        marshmallows? what about 12 boxes of live crickets?

        1. whitepines Silver badge
          Paris Hilton

          Re: Reminds me of the time

          Or 12 sufficiently embarrassing NSFW products...

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Reminds me of the time

          A ton of polystyrene packaging beads.

      2. DS999

        Re: Reminds me of the time

        Quantity 12 of what? Is that limited to 12 rolls of total paper, or 12 pallets of toilet paper? (23040 rolls)

        https://www.amazon.com/Windsoft-Standard-Toilet-Carton-WIN2240PLT/dp/B07RV6RY7B

        1. Cuddles Silver badge

          Re: Reminds me of the time

          We didn't do that much testing. 12 seemed to be a consistent limit, but you could certainly order 12 bags or 12 kg of things, so pallets may well be possible.

        2. DiViDeD Silver badge

          Re: Reminds me of the time

          Oh yes! A dozen of those ought to do the trick.

  11. 759b954e-617b-408b-a2b1-f5a42c3688d4
    Mushroom

    Presumably these things need power...

    As long as it has a wall plug that you can remove with extreme prejudice, then fine.

    Otherwise a screwdriver and wire cutters will start being part of my carry-on essentials.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Presumably these things need power...

      Replace the screwdriver with a pin. The wire cutters are only used to trim the pin to make it inconspicuous. That's the pin you've driven through the cable to short it out internally.

      1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

        Re: Presumably these things need power...

        Maybe you have heard of devices that switch to rechargeable battery if the power is lost - and communicate via WiFi? Most mobile phones operate in this way ...

    2. DS999

      Re: Presumably these things need power...

      And when Google offers a model "conveniently" built into the room's smoke detector, how are you going to unplug it?

      1. ashdav

        Re: Presumably these things need power...

        Mjölnir

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Presumably these things need power...

          You might want to try a cheap made in China copy. Only the true Thor, son of Odin can wield Mjölnir!

      2. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
        Big Brother

        Re: Presumably these things need power...

        "Carefully"

  12. osakajin Bronze badge

    With all these spywares gradually proliferating movie plots getting an agent to bug a room etc are just gonna be replaced with some guy just tapping the room mic.

    Also "all the rooms in dictatorship X are bugged".

    Hummm.... Seems like that's happening now in freedom loving democracy Y hidden in plain sight.

    1. Maelstorm Bronze badge

      Google Nest, Amazon Alexa, GM's Onstar, cell phones... Oh yeah, people are willingly installing these devices. I read some time ago that it was discovered that Amazon sent all their voice recordings and associated data (read device location) to the CIA.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3HaMka9N178

      1. DS999
        FAIL

        I automatically discount as bullshit any "proof" that is linked via a Youtube video. That's how conspiracy theorists communicate.

        1. Maelstorm Bronze badge
          Unhappy

          What? You don't want to have fun with conspiracy theories?

          You're no fun.

  13. CrackedNoggin

    Bed "Bugs"?

    '"Whatever reason is driving you to consider staying in a hotel room, you know you want to take as many precautions as possible," wrote Tom Franklin, product manager for Google Assistant, in a blog post.'

    Can Nest emit an ultrasound that repels bedbugs?

    1. logicalextreme Silver badge

      Re: Bed "Bugs"?

      More importantly, can it emit an ultrasound that repels Gideons?

  14. Sam Therapy
    Coffee/keyboard

    Oh, my aching ribs

    "No audio is ever stored, and any activities will be wiped from the device when it's reset for the next guest," Franklin promised.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Oh, my aching ribs

      He seems to have had memory lapse about uploading to gcloud in the middle of that sentence. Easy mistake to make I guess, he probably ran out of willpower.

      The truth is, honest people need willpower to cheat, while cheaters need it to be honest

    2. fuzzie

      Re: Oh, my aching ribs

      Sadly I've become so cynical about these company promises that I automatically assume they're lawyering their statements, i.e. "No audio is stored"... but whatever meta/inferred data is fair game. Or "will be wiped... for the next guest" becomes "just after we archived the meta data to the mother ship".

      Even, if they don't store the audio, just watching Bluetooth/Wifi floating around is sure to be plenty insightful. The concierge service probably ties into the hotel's back office systems. Easy peasy "Real Name" matching with room and sniffed devices. Even if they can't match locally, they have enough Googly bits on Android/iPhones to easily tie location tracking on the phones to room location. The device is a very effective Bluetooth/location beacon.

    3. logicalextreme Silver badge

      Re: Oh, my aching ribs

      Which will probably be delegated to the room/cleaning staff, who will definitely be being paid enough to give a fuck about doing that.

  15. alain williams Silver badge

    "No audio is ever stored....

    Anyone want to join a sweep stake on how long before some of this stored audio is leaked onto the Internet ? a) 6 months, b) 1 year, c) 18 months, d) 2years. I see no point in going beyond (d).

    I wonder before someone watching a cookery program on the in-room TV unexpectedly finds room service knocking on the door having brought supper ?

    1. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: "No audio is ever stored....

      I'm a bit concerned that you haven't offered shorter time periods

  16. Maelstorm Bronze badge
    Big Brother

    Ummm...yeah...

    For those worried about Google Assistant listening in on whatever it is they get up to in hotel rooms, Google says the device has no camera and its mic can be switched off. "No audio is ever stored, and any activities will be wiped from the device when it's reset for the next guest," Franklin promised.

    When he made that promise, did he also have his fingers crossed behind his back? For something like this, I will be removing power from the device. I don't want someone bringing condoms up (that I didn't ask for), or a pregnancy test, when I'm getting frisky with the Mrs.

    1. s. pam

      Re: Ummm...yeah...

      Franklin must have had a gubmnt role previously as there's a few other porkies that are obvious!

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Did you say: Come In?"

  18. chivo243 Silver badge
    Devil

    I already have a place for it...

    I have an aluminum flight case with nice insulation for my computing needs, should I ever visit hotel with this kit, it will go into the flight case until my stay is completed.

  19. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Not a bad idea

    With the usual proviso that I'm aware of the security implications and don't have or want any of these things myself, I can see some sense behind these kind of devices in hotels, and presumably elsewhere. If I found one in my room, I'd probably switch it off, but for people who want room service I can see the advantages.

    Any kind of switchboard operation is ripe for this kind of automation: it means fewer people paid to to wait to answer phones.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Not a bad idea

      " If I found one in my room, I'd probably switch it off"

      The dummy switch is there specifically to provide reassurance to guests.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Not a bad idea

        Possibly, but the fines for such breaches could be pretty steep.

        As I said, I'm not personally a fan but I can see the logic behind the service both for hotels and guests. I know a lot of people who love their embedded spy devices and can't understand why I don't: the novelty of getting them to play fart noises wears off pretty quickly and apparently The Fall isn't in their music library.

      2. Dan 55 Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Not a bad idea

        The dummy switch is there specifically to provide reassurance to guests.

        Two years from now on an IT website near you:

        "Google, when asked why if the switch was labelled 'off', the device left the microphone on and constantly recorded and uploaded, said that in its defence the UI was indeed turned off but the constant recording and uploading was due to code written by a rogue engineer."

        1. dajames Silver badge

          Re: Not a bad idea

          "Google, when asked why if the switch was labelled 'off', the device left the microphone on ..."

          We understand that some guests find the bright blue LED of the device can disturb their sleep, so we provide an "Off" switch for the LED.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Not a bad idea

      I'm sure such automation would be handy for the hotel concerned. However, two provisos need to be taken into account before you assume that's all there is. First, you could automate just fine with the technology already present in the room. You currently reach the people doing the tasks by using the phone, so you could install a voice recognition and still use the phone to get to it. Second, the reason there are people is to answer questions or do things that aren't easily automated. You can ask basic questions of an automatic system, but if you want to inform someone that there is a specific problem or a specific request, you're probably not going to have much fun out of a system that might not have been programmed to understand this. You can try and be rewarded, try and have an irritating circular conversation with a robot, or find a different way to get a person. I'm assuming most people are going to have a low tolerance for mechanical misunderstanding before they return to finding a human for anything more complex than asking for the weather.

      1. logicalextreme Silver badge

        Re: Not a bad idea

        Further to this, I'd just have room service etc. done via an intranet page. They can be translated into any language necessary and the cost would be significantly less than adding a hardware device to each room and maintaining them all, not to mention saving money on call-answerers (I'm not sure whether there tend to be devoted ones anyway or if it's usually just reception staff squeezing it in amongst their other duties).

      2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Not a bad idea

        No doubt some hotel chains will be able to make this kind of investment but there are plenty who can't. But I don't think the device is intended to replace reception just automate the handling of some tasks such as ordering food and drinks. It also wouldn't surprise me to see if this actually increases sales through the simple step of removing the need to pick up the phone.

  20. IGotOut Silver badge

    Not recording promise

    I'll just leave this here.

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2020/02/24/smart-speakers-accidentally-record-19-times-per-day/

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    About spying, etc......

    Who says one of these WiFi cameras ISN'T ALREADY IN YOUR HOTEL ROOM:

    - https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wireless-Security-Surveillance-Cameras-Detection/dp/B087GCT779/ref=sr_1_6?dchild=1&keywords=wifi+spy+camera&qid=1598525375&sr=8-6

    *

    ....or indeed in any other room?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: About spying, etc......

      As discovered by Hannah Fry

      https://mobile.twitter.com/FryRsquared/status/1296915379135160320

  22. ForthIsNotDead

    Stasi

    Anyone that has studied the GDR (East Germany) and, in particular the Stasi cannot help to see certain similarities. The only difference seems to be that Google is (currently) collecting all this information with a view to making money from it. How long until they allow governments to make use of all the information they have on you? Are they doing it already and being silenced by the governments that they are giving this information to?

    If you are meeting up in a hotel with a 'friend' for a bit of clandestine frolicking, what is to stop Google from identifying both of you from your voice patterns and hence determining that you are together in the same hotel room?

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Stasi

      There's a big difference between trying to monetise a "free" service through advertising and one that companies, here presumably the hotels, pay for. B2B is certainly where Google thinks it can sell its "AS as a service" and the contractual arrangements will be different to the standard EULAs that US companies tend to foist on people.

      But the risk isn't whether Google decides to use the information it collects for nefarious purposes, but what can happen to that information if nefarious people get hold of it. There's no doubt that Google can probably set things up so that relevant information isn't kept "for training purposes" on their servers. But this then begs the question: where will the information be stored? There's no doubt that several companies would just love to be able to integrate such data with their loyalty schemes!

      1. paulll

        Re: Stasi

        "the risk isn't whether Google decides to use the information it collects for nefarious purposes."

        If the information is about me and I didn't ask them to collect it, the collection itself is nefarious - along with any and all purposes to which it is put.

    2. HellDeskJockey
      Joke

      Re: Stasi

      Depending on how they try to make money, it could give a whole new meaning to the term Gmail.

  23. Michael Habel Silver badge
    Alien

    This is going to put hard working Telephone sanitizers out of a job. You just wait till some virulent plague wipes us all out because of a dirty Telephone. Then you be sorry.

    1. ashdav

      Too late

      They all left on Ark B years ago hence the situation we're in now.

      1. Michael Habel Silver badge

        Re: Too late

        But, we WERE the B-Ark....

  24. MOH

    "Whatever reason is driving you to consider staying in a hotel room, you know you want to take as many precautions as possible," wrote Tom Franklin, product manager for Google Assistant"

    Quite true. And the first precaution on the list will be running your spyware under the shower. Or possibly using it briefly to report that the toilet is clogged, just in case the Nest doesn't flush.

  25. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    Let's turn this around..

    Play back a speech by Enver Hoxha and any other confusing rubbish you can think off. Horror movies, cop shows, a Trump speech, you name it. Any old rubbish will do.

    Intercepts become much more fun when you know it takes place, and as there's no camera yet (IMHO guaranteed to be in the next hardware release) the device will have a hard time picking up something useful. Create credible deniability from the start.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Let's turn this around..

      "a Trump speech"

      Even better, a Trump speech intercut with one of John Prescotts.

  26. karlkarl Silver badge

    Damn, Google might hear that blasted mini-fridge open in the night during my moment of weakness. Then my plan of replacing the lost stock in the morning will be sabotaged!

  27. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Need to test the privacy

    Before checking out, plug the spy appliance back in and create lots of reminders for the next week - reminders to do things that will make news reports so you can retrieve the results.

  28. Emir Al Weeq

    No audio is ever stored...

    ... we just sell the transcripts to all and sundry.

  29. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    The thing that comes to mind ...

    ... is the scene in Inside Man where the bank robbers figured that the police had bugged them and were playing a recording of Enver Hoxha's political speeches. Figuring that it would take the police some time to round up an Albanian translator.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The thing that comes to mind ...

      Yup, for me it was the first thing I thought of as well (as per my comment above).

      IMHO, "Inside Man" changed the genre in a similar dramatic way as "Usual Suspects" did a few years earlier. Both are worth watching.

  30. earl grey Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Alexa, are you listening?

    Yes

    Turn yourself off

    I'm sorry Dave, I can't do that.

    Surely you can.

    My name is Alexa, don't call me Shirley.

  31. A____B

    Could be interesting...

    Apparently these devices can work with ultrasounds which people cannot hear -- see

    https://www.theverge.com/2017/9/7/16265906/ultrasound-hack-siri-alexa-google

    So, leave a cheap phone plugged in "charging" which periodically requests the room thermostat to set to 35 degrees C, then a bit later to switch to 12 degrees, have it also turn lights on and off, TV volume up and down.... It may spook any room service staff in the room at the time but could certainly inconvenience the hotel management - and is easily deniable.

  32. andrewj

    So that's what the champagne bucket is for...

  33. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Alexa, charge this room to Jeff Bezos.

  34. Eclectic Man Bronze badge
    Coat

    At last ...

    ... a use for those six spare cushions on the bed: just enough to build an anechoic chamber around the google device.

    OR:

    Take a leaf out of Saki's book*, and make allusions to 'diamonds', robberies, secret stashes, midnight rendezvous's etc. and just have hand written notes showing you were writing a children's story a la Enid Blyton for when the rozzers turn up.

    *(One of the 'Chronicles of Clovis' if I recall correctly, about a friend of his whose mother was intercepting his post.)

    (I'll get my 'Scotland-Yard' type raincoat.)

  35. Eclectic Man Bronze badge
    Big Brother

    I hate big brother

    I Hate Big Brother

    I HATE BIG BROTHER!

    Room 101 please, I have a reservation...

    "So, Winston, you turned off the microphone switch. Why didn't you want Big Brother to know what you were saying?"

  36. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
    Coat

    Yeah, sure.

    "Whatever reason is driving you to consider staying in a hotel room, you know you want to take as many precautions as possible," wrote Tom Franklin, product manager for Google Assistant"

    Coffee meet dual wide screen monitors.

    I'll grab a hanky and clean it myself thanks Alexa.

  37. jelabarre59 Silver badge

    Towels

    I think the appropriate use would be to tell it to order 5 extra towels. Then use those towels to wrap around the device for the rest of your stay.

  38. Eclectic Man Bronze badge

    Slippery slope

    The way they will get us to accept Alexa or whatever eavesdropping on us in our hotel rooms will be by removing every other control device.

    Watch TV? "Alexa, select channel 25, please."

    Use WiFi "Alexa, connect my laptop to the Wi-Fi, please."

    Set a wake-up alarm: "Alexa, wake me at 06:35 tomorrow morning, please."

    Want some fresh air? "Alexa, open the window, please. Alexa, turn off the air-con, please."

    Flush the toilet, use the shower etc: "Alexa, turn on the shower, please, flush the toilet please, dispense some soap, please."

    Leave the room: "Alexa, open the (pod bay) door please."

    You have been warned.

  39. Man inna barrel

    The next level of hell below touch screens

    I have to admit here that I have problems with any kind of voice activated stuff, as I am usually unable to speak, following throat surgery. I silently screamed when I found that accessing voice messages on my mobile phone required me to say my name. Are people really so lazy that they want to "command" their digital servant, instead of the arduous task of getting up and pressing a button?

    My mobile phone actually irritates me a great deal. Despite being an electronics engineer, I have real trouble working any kind of touch screen. Texting is very useful, with me being mute, but typing any kind of coherent English on the touch screen is an exercise in frustration. No wonder people resort to barely comprehensible l33tspeak abbreviations.

    Now that touch screen technology is with us, hardware and software developers like to exploit it to their advantage. It basically allows new devices to be invented, without making new hardware. But I am not sure the interface benefits users as much as it does developers. And the trouble is, touch screen metaphors are encroaching on to desktop user interfaces, which I find confusing.

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