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Pirate captain blasts Google for its 'mystery' Chrome blob

Not Ok Google, says irked open source Chromium collective

Pirate Party captain Rick Falkvinge has weighed into the Google Chrome 'listening blob' debate, saying Mountain View silently downloaded an 'eavesdropper' to Chrome users' machines.

The row arose last week, when Debian users first noticed that The Chocolate Factory was dropping the blob on their machines.

Falkvinge rejects Google's apology, that while the binary file was downloaded without consent, it was enabled only when users ticked a box to use the Ok Google voice recognition search.

"Google has been stealth downloading audio listeners onto every computer that runs Chrome, and transmitting audio data back to Google," Falkvinge says.

"Effectively, this means that Google had taken itself the right to listen to every conversation in every room that runs Chrome somewhere, without any kind of consent from the people eavesdropped on."

Google has given the pinky promise that the binary file was used only to allow it to detect when users spoke the trigger phrase 'Ok Google' to enable a voice web search.

Debian has removed auto downloading of the NaCI module binary from its version of Chromium, the open source sister of Chrome, while Google has made it easier to excise the proprietary code from version 45 onwards.

The gaffe was first detected in the Debian mailing list when user Yoshino Yoshihito says they noticed the Chrome Hotword Shared Module was downloaded when Chromium version 43 connected to the internet.

Sydney Chromium programmer Matt Giuca addressed concerns in a Chromium mailing list saying the fact that the module is deactivated until users opt-in should allay privacy fears. ®

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