Amid privacy concerns, Nest’s CEO promises any privacy policy changes will be transparent and opt-in

January 20, 2014
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Last Monday the web was buzzing with news of Google’s purchase of Nest Labs for a cool $3.2 billion dollars, making it the company’s biggest acquisition since Motorola. Immediately after the news hit, so did the reports about how a Google-owned Nest could become a major privacy concern.

Not only did we see tons of articles about the potential security and privacy issues raised by the purchase, it didn’t take long before social network and forum posts started showing up from folks who said they were now giving up on Nest. Some existing owners even promised that they would be discontinuing the use of Nest products.

For Nest Labs’ part, the company has repeatedly said that they don’t plan to operate any differently when it comes to the way they use customer data. In an interview at the DLD Conference in Munich, the company’s CEO Tony Fadell further echoed their intents to leave their privacy policy unchanged.

At this point, there are no changes. The data that we collect is all about our products and improving them.
Tony Fadell
CEO of Nest Labs

Going a step further, Fadell vows that, in the event any future changes are made, Nest Labs will be sure to make these revisions in policy opt-in. Furthermore, Fadell pledges to be very transparent about any changes in policy going forward.

In a nutshell, Fadell’s vow suggests that they will likely be changing its user policy in the future (just not now), but at least they will be working to make sure that any changes are optional.

So why all the concern about a Google-led Nest Labs?

Bottom-line, there are some folks that are concerned that giving Google further access to the Internet of Things opens a door that will allow them to further ‘spy’ on us, collecting even more data about how we live our lives and then they will use that information to monetize us.

Let’s be honest: Of course Google wants more data! That’s their business model, love it or hate it. The more data that Google collects, the better they can improve their existing services and their advertising strategies, bringing them more customers and more money.

Even if you throw out that Nest thermostat, there is arguably very little stopping Google from spying on you through your Android smartphone, through your Chrome browser, and so forth.

The idea that Google can now ‘spy’ on your house is going to be something that keeps some folks up at night. As for me? I personally find it a bit silly to be that concerned with whether Google knows what my house’s temperature is or if my house is on fire. If anything, I look forward to what Google can potentially add to Nest’s existing solutions such as being able to easily set temperatures using Google Now.

Sure, Google’s ambitions for smart homes go beyond Nest’s current product offerings, but ultimately if you truly fear Google, you probably are better off avoiding all their products. Even if you throw out that Nest thermostat, there is arguably very little stopping Google from spying on you through your Android smartphone, through your Chrome browser, and so forth.

It would be naive to say that there are no privacy concerns involved when a massive company like Google has the power to collect our data from a vast array of places/devices, but Google is far from the only company that is out there gathering information about us in order to better monetize us. Not to mention that many of the world’s most powerful governments are doing the same thing, only instead with the promise of providing ‘better security’.

As a writer for Android Authority, I’ll admit that I am the kind of consumer that is more than willing to give up a little perceived privacy in order to receive awesome free services. I understand and respect that not everyone feels this way, however. What do you think of Google’s recent purchase of Nest Labs?

Do you feel that the privacy concerns surrounding the deal are legit, or do you believe that Nest Labs (and Google) are already doing their best to ensure that any privacy changes are for the betterment of their existing products? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

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