Home Technology

Google’s Nest Labs opens platform to third parties, dodges privacy questions


Google’s gone on the record as saying that its Gmail users can’t expect privacy when sending emails across the World Wide Web. This is quite a statement for the search engine giant, particularly when Google controls so much user information.

And Google’s nonchalant attitude about user data is the reason why the EU issued a decision some weeks ago to require Google to delete harmful data published about individuals across its search engine – regardless of the nature of the information. Google wasn’t alone in the court order, as Microsoft and Yahoo were also given the same decisions – but Google’s search engine is much more far-reaching than either Microsoft’s Bing or Yahoo.

And with the purchase of Tony Fadell’s Nest Labs back in February, many began to wonder about Google’s intentions. If the Mountain View Company is so cavalier about exposing its Gmail user data, why would it be any different with home automation? Nest co-founder Matt Rogers responded to the Nest acquisition by saying that Nest’s purpose was to make life easier for consumers and provide benefits that make home automation relevant: “It’s not just integration for integration’s sake, or connectivity just to connect. It’s ‘what are great user benefits we could do?’ Those are the kinds of things we’re going to highlight.”

Yesterday, Google’s Nest Labs decided to open up the home thermostat platform to third-party developers, and companies such as Whirlpool, Chamberlain, Mercedes-Benz, Jawbone, and LIFX have already teamed up with Nest to integrate smart thermostats with their products. Nest is currently a separate company from Google (despite the acquisition), but Google has also agreed to offer its Google Now services through the Nest smart thermostat for users who can’t get enough of Google’s voice command feature and up-to-the-minute information that’s relevant to the user.

What does it mean for the Nest platform to open up to third-party developers? It means that your personal information can be shared with those whom you choose to share it with. In short, if you decide to have Google Now integration with your smart thermostat, Google will’ve access to your personal data.

As if privacy concerns with Google weren’t bad enough, Nest acquired home surveillance company Dropcam on Friday. While the acquisition was made by Tony Fadell’s company, Nest belongs to Google – so, in a sense, Google acquired Dropcam.

Google’s track record with exposing user data is now back at the top of the list of concerns for those who cherish their privacy. Electronic Frontier Foundation Senior Staff Attorney Lee Tien says that Google could partner up with insurance companies in the near future: “Assuming that Google and Nest now better know whether you are home or not, what could Google or anyone with access to that information do? Will we see insurance companies and cops and other entities trying to get this data?”

As for Nest, the company’s doing everything it can to distinguish itself from Google so as to ease the minds of consumers. “Like Nest customer data, Dropcam will come under Nest’s privacy policy, which explains that data won’t be shared with anyone (including Google) without a customer’s permission. Nest has a paid-for business model, and ads aren’t part of our strategy. In acquiring Dropcam, we’ll apply that same policy to Dropcam too,” Nest co-founder Matt Rogers said in a company blog post. At the same time, however, no one wants to share his or her information with Google; most users do it to enjoy Google’s services. But, with Rogers’ admission, you can be sure that Nest and Google will’ve some cooperation in sharing your personal data.

Previous articleGoogle I/O 2014: Android L, Android Auto, and Android TV
Next articleLG G Watch, Samsung Gear Live specs and availability