Yesterday, Artem shared his personal experience with the Google Home Mini, and how his unit began recording audio at random intervals. This was due to a hardware flaw, where the Mini believed that the top touch button was being pressed, which then prompted it to start listening for voice commands and sending the audio to Google's servers. Google quickly disabled the top button via a software update while it worked on a possible solution.
Today the company announced that all touch functionality on the Home Mini would be disabled permanently. Here is Google's official statement:
We take user privacy and product quality concerns very seriously. Although we only received a few reports of this issue, we want people to have complete peace of mind while using Google Home Mini.
We have made the decision to permanently remove all top touch functionality on the Google Home Mini. As before, the best way to control and activate Google Home Mini is through voice, by saying “Ok Google” or “Hey Google,” which is already how most people engage with our Google Home products. You can still adjust the volume by using the touch control on the side of the device.
Not only is the single-tap action being disabled, which would enable Google Assistant, the button is being completely turned off. Previously, the Home Mini would allow taps to play/pause music, or stop an alarm/timer (see this support page for examples). The volume controls on the side of the Mini are unaffected.
While the problem was limited to only a few reports, it's clear Google wants to avoid any potential issues that could have arisen. Smart speakers and similar products are already avoided by many people due to possible privacy concerns, and a more widespread incident like this could have done major damage to the company's reputation. At least this time, Google has avoided a Note7-style situation.