Journal of Information & Privacy Law

Google Reaches into Homes with Nest Acquisition

By Kalli Kling, Managing Editor on Saturday, January 25th, 2014
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On January 13, 2014 Google acquired Nest Lab, Inc. for $3.2 billion. Currently, Nest only sells two products designed to make life easier for its consumers: a thermostat and a smoke/ carbon monoxide detector. However, what makes these devices unique is the innovative qualities the creators included to save energy and make managing a person’s home easier. Both devices can be controlled by a person’s smartphone. Through the smartphone a person can adjust the temperature in his home. The application the consumer’s phone has installed also receives notifications that inform the owner when the detector senses smoke or carbon monoxide gas, where the threat is located, and the seriousness of the threat. This is only possible though by these allowing these devices to track a person’s or family’s habits over time.

The devices learn the household habits, and can eventually determine the difference between when there is an actual fire, or if it is simply toast burning while cooking breakfast. Additionally, the thermostat collects a household’s information and can adjust the temperature in the home by determining the times that people are in the house and when people are at school or work to save energy and lower a consumer’s heat and air conditioning bills. Although these are common items, the innovative features included with the two devices change the meaning of a “smart house.” By connecting smart phones and household devices through data collection, Nest makes people’s lives easier, but some wonder at what price?

The idea behind the connection of a person’s phone and his home is innovative and convenient, but does it compromise a consumer’s privacy? Some people believe Nest products do, and with Google acquiring the company, people are worried about the reach Google will now have into homes and the influx of Google’s consumer data collection. Google will not only know search habits of their users, but also Google can learn how warm consumers like their houses to be. Eventually, Nest is hoping to create “smart homes” by making more intuitive household devices that can interact with one another without the consumer having to do anything. These devices will be able to be controlled through a smartphone, and will use data collection to run a home in accordance with the homeowner’s lifestyle. While the idea is intriguing, will Google be able to collect too much data? Nest CEO, Tony Fadell ensures Nest customers that their privacy policy will not change without a person’s consent, and Nest will run an opt-in program to allow Google to collect all of the information it seeks, but anyone can reject Google from collecting this information. This seems like a good solution, but how long will Nest be allowed to run as its own company without Google overriding these policies?

With technological advances pushing privacy boundaries, people are beginning to question whether the advancements are worth allowing companies inside their homes and their lives. The more connected our lives become to technology, the more we allow others the ability to interfere with our lives. Hackers have been around for decades, but what happens if someone could hack our homes? It seems like a ridiculous concept, but as technology advances the ability to get into a person’s life and now home increases as well. This reality creates a tough decision, but eventually people will need to decide which is more important, convenience or their privacy.
More information regarding Nest Lab, Inc. products can be found at www.nest.com.

 

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