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.
In official statements, Google shrugged off the practice with what amounts to “we can do that”. "When I start Chromium, it downloads something." Followed by strange status information that notably included the lines "Microphone: Yes" and "Audio Capture Allowed: Yes".
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Maintainers of operating systems like Debian and Ubuntu use many so-called “upstreams” of source code to build the final product.
Chromium, the open-source version of Google Chrome, had abused its position as trusted upstream to insert lines of source code that this audit-then-build process, and which downloaded and installed a black box of unverifiable executable code directly onto computers, essentially rendering them compromised.
Shakila Ahmed, Travelodge spokeswoman said: 'Since we have introduced our new brand design and modernised our rooms, we have seen a significant rise in our fluffy pillows, snuggly duvets, striped bed runners and contemporary artwork being taken from our 500 UK hotels.
A spokesperson for the online review site said: 'It is absolutely against the terms and spirit of our site to use Trip Advisor's name to try and claim discounts or freebies that would not be available to other guests.
When you’re installing a version of GNU/Linux like Debian or Ubuntu onto a fresh computer, thousands of really smart people have analyzed every line of human-readable source code before that operating system was built into computer-executable binary code, to make it common and open knowledge what the machine to be doing.
Therefore, you don’t install black boxes onto a Debian or Ubuntu system; you use software repositories that have gone through this source-code audit-then-build process.
Without consent, Google’s code had downloaded a black box of code that – according to itself – had turned on the microphone and was actively listening to your room.
A brief explanation of the Open-source / Free-software philosophy is needed here.
We don’t know and can’t know what this black box does.