Unless you’ve been living under a climate-controlled rock for the past few days, you probably heard that Google dropped a cool $3.2 billion to acquire the home automation startup Nest. Nest is a system of thermostats, smoke alarms, and room sensors that can link up with your smartphone and provide users with an all-in-one personally adjusted comfort experience.
The move isn’t exactly out of the ordinary for Google, who has been buying up companies that have nothing to do with internet searches for years, including ventures like solar farms, driverless cars, and even their own miniature version of the privatized space exploration industry. Many believe that Google is simply interested in building a better future for the next generation, and is willing to use their massive well of reserves in order to get us there a few days sooner.
That said, it is a little eery that a company so concerned with gathering information on its users to sell to advertisers is interested in purchasing a home automation system. There’s simply no getting around the idea that even if they decide to use the technology responsibly, there is still a chance that your house could get hacked go all HAL-9000 on you and decide to lock all the doors from the outside. Also, there is a strong possibility that Google is interested in gathering the data that Nest collects by default, including what rooms in the house are occupied, when the owners are away, and the details of individuals schedules as they come and go throughout the day.
Google has promised the public they will abide by all of Nest’s current privacy policies, including the clause which requires them to explicitly inform users exactly how the data gathered from the system is used and distributed by the company. Co-founder of Nest Matt Rogers reiterated the sentiment in a blog posted this Monday:
Whatever Google’s eventual plans for Nest are, it’s clear that as we move toward a more connected society where our devices are linked to nearly every part of our life both on and off the internet, these types of debates will rage on for years to come.