Will Google & Nest Spy on Your Home with Dropcam?

Dropcam, the home monitoring camera startup, has been bought by Nest Labs, maker of smoke detectors and digital thermostats. Nest Labs paid $555 million for the acquisition in cash.


Photo: Dropcam

Nest was acquired by Google only four months ago for a deal worth $3.2 billion. But the firm says it is undertaking the Dropcam acquisition outside Google on its own. Dropcam will be integrated into Nest’s company culture and brand, revealed Matt Rogers, co-founder Nest, in an interview with Re/code.

Rogers also described Dropcam as having the best services, products, and customer experience in its niche. He stated in a blog post:

“Dropcam lets you check in on your home, no matter where you are in the world. But that’s not the only reason we’re excited about adding them to the Nest family. Our companies actually have a lot in common.”

Dropcam currently offers two camera models and a motion sensor device. It charges yearly or monthly fees for its cloud-based video streaming and storage service. The aim of the firm is to provide customers the ability to monitor their homes through a smartphone or a web app in real time, regardless of their location.

Dropcam stores the last seven days of streamed footage in the cloud for the consumer to check at any time; and an annual payment of $300 stores the last 30 days. The cameras capture pictures at 30 fps and high resolution; this isn’t a time-lapse device. And it makes perfect sense for Nest to acquire it.

Just imagine what Nest, a part of Google, can do with a high-resolution video feed of your home. It can be used to gather behavioral data – when do you come and go, the temperature you would like at night, etc. This can lead to products that automate your home and tips on how to go about with home security and management endeavors.


Photo: Dropcam

However, it’s not all praise for the acquisition. A prominent critic states that the acquisition of Dropcam is a nefarious attempt by Google to expand its spying practices from the Internet into the real world.

President of research consulting company Precursor Scott Cleland said in a blog post that Google’s acquisition of Dropcam “fits into Google’s plans for a new ubiquitous physical surveillance network that will complement and leverage its existing virtual surveillance network.”

It “fills a big missing part of Google’s vision — literally to see, hear and track everything — in order to fulfill Google’s mission ‘to organize the world’s information,” adds Cleland.

Google has acquired the building blocks necessary to create a surveillance network to physically track everyone from the sky to the ground. Google purchased Boston Dynamics, Titan Aerospace, Skybox, and Nest, before acquiring Dropcam.

Such statements raise a list of concerns for consumers. Lee Tien, Senior Staff Attorney at Electronic Frontier Foundation says that Google may partner with insurance companies in the 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?”

Nest, however, is doing everything possible to distinguish itself as a separate entity. Their claim ‘Dropcam will come under Nest’s privacy policy’ indicates that the data won’t be shared with other companies, including Google, without the permission of a customer.

“Nest has a paid-for business model and ads are not part of our strategy. In acquiring Dropcam, we’ll apply that same policy to Dropcam too.”

But Cleland sees back doors when it comes to Google; the company may cooperate with Nest to deploy new services that can’t be used without sharing information with Google.

What do you think about this acquisition? Feel free to leave comments.