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Nest's Mounting Privacy Concerns


January 21, 2014

Last week the news broke that smart thermostat company Nest was being purchased by Google. There were quite a few concerns voiced in response to this announcement, most of which concerned privacy. On the day of the announcement, Nest posted a short announcement article and Q&A on its blog. One seemingly key piece in the Q&A section was the bit on privacy:

Our privacy policy clearly limits the use of customer information to providing and improving Nest’s products and services. We’ve always taken privacy seriously and this will not change.

While this sentence was certainly posted to alleviate fears regarding privacy, an interview with Nest CEO Tony Fadell yesterday brought about this comment regarding the privacy policy:

If there were ever any changes whatsoever, we will be sure to be transparent about it, number one, and number two, for you to opt in to it.

So while the current Nest privacy policy may limit the data garnered from the device to only be used to improve Nest’s products and services, Nest clearly has no qualms about changing that policy in the future to give more information to its new owner. Sure Fadell may say these will be opt-in only services, but Google doesn’t exactly have a great track record in tweaking privacy rules in a way that defaults to users being opted-out. I would not be too confident that this will change in the case of Nest.