Lots of things are creepy these days. Mind-reading helmets, robots made from living tissue, and just plain old military drones. A new Google bug, however, looks like it’s worthy of being added to the list.
As first spotted on Reddit, searching for a number of phrases with your Google Assistant (typing them in, not speaking them) brings up some weird results. More specifically, these phrases bring up your phone’s text message history, which is kinda weird.
The first phrase that was reported was “the1975..com”. It now looks like Google has fixed this bug, but adding an extra dot – to make it “the1975…com” – still seems to cause the issue.
And there are a number of other weird phrases too. “Vizel viagens," "Izela viagens," and "Zela viagens" – each a misspelling of a travel agency – all bring up the bug. You can have a go yourself, although it only seems to work with certain Android phones or others with a Google Assistant.
So what’s going on? Well, according to Google it’s the result of a “language detection bug”. You can normally ask Google to show you your text messages, if you’ve given it permission, but it seems to be misreading these phrases as that command for some reason. Enjoy it while it lasts though, because a fix is apparently on the way.
"We are aware of a language detection bug in the Google Search app for Android which erroneously interpreted certain phrases as a request to view recent text messages," a Google representative said, reported CNET. "A fix for this bug has been implemented and will roll out over the next few days."
The issue has understandably raised some concerns about privacy. Of course, you need to actually be using someone’s phone for the hack to work, at which point you could probably read their texts anyway.
Still, it does come off the back of a variety of other Google-related news. The other week, for example, the company updated its code of conduct to sort of remove the phrase “don’t be evil”. And then there’s all that stuff about Project Maven, too.
Sure, it’s probably all a harmless bug. But deep down, we all probably think it’s some privacy software just waiting to steal all our data, right?