Open source developers spotted that the Chromium browser — the open-source basis of Google Chrome — secretly installs an audio-snooping code that is capable of listening in to conversations that happen in front of the computer.
The code was first designed to help Chrome’s new feature “OK, Google,” a feature that enables a user to switch to voice commands by saying “OK Google” when in the Google homepage. None of that looked like a problem until some users noticed that it activated without their permission.
Rick Falkvinge, a Pirate Party founder, said that Google downloaded a black box code that enabled the microphone and was actively listening. Ofer Zelig, a developer, also noticed that the light on his webcam kept blinking, indicating that his microphone was on. He investigated and found that the culprit was Chromium.
“The key here is that Chromium is not a Google product. We do not directly distribute it, nor make any guarantees with respect to compliance with various open-source policies,” Google defended themselves. Their spokeswoman also avowed that Google is not listening to the conversations nor sending the information to any third party. They simply want to give users the ablity to search hands-free when using their browser. Anyway, she continued, users can choose to opt in or opt out.
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