Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tech Time ::: Nest acquired by Google--What does this mean?

So for a couple months now, there were rumblings that Nest was being courted by Google, and the rumblings were quite true, evidently, as Nest Labs was just acquired for $3.2B dollars. Yes, that's three-point-two-billion-dollars. In cash. 

Now, before you go further, I interweave a lot of personal opinions in this post. There's obviously facts as well, easily sourced elsewhere, but this being my personal blog, I share my personal thoughts.  If you're not interested in those, or choose to find me overly paranoid, that's you're own right. 

While you're wrapping your head around how many dollar bills there are in a pile of $3.2B...what were they really buying when Google bought Nest Labs?  

Sure, Nest was a great company with great products.  But what it also is: a personal data goldmine and the keys to your privacy-mobile for Google. And with Google wanting to build personal profiles on everyone and everything, with intent on making money on you and your every move, desire and purchase, this acquisition is bad for everyone.  Well, everyone but Google, and the multi-billion dollar businesses the data they mine will be sold to, like insurance companies, for example.

If the idea of that isn't scary, it should be.  It terrifies me.  As much as I'd like to respect him as I once did, Tony Fadell, Nest's CEO and co-founder, can say whatever he wants til he's blue in the face to save face, with his "our privacy policy won't change" commentary.  Well, your privacy policy isn't very clear on what will and won't get used and for what purpose. And now that you're not really in control, as much as you think you are, Google will do what Google does, at your expense and the expense of your credibility, Mr. Fadell, no matter what they told you.  

As stated by Tony Fadell via the Nest Labs blog, "Google will help us fully realize our vision of the conscious home and allow us to change the world faster than we ever could if we continued to go it alone," was also quoted in the article regarding the acquisition on The Verge, and it's...well...scary.  I don't want an inanimate object like my house being "conscious." It's already doing enough to drain the life out of me as it is, tracking my whereabouts as well? Yea, no thanks.

So, with this purchase, and the possibilities of what ill will come of it--because, frankly, no good can possibly come of it--I will no longer be lusting for, or planning to buy, a Nest system or product of any kind, and if you value any shred of what little privacy you have, you won't either.  I am sad about that, but I won't have that window opened into my house, or willingly bring the item into my house and allow it to "look around while I'm out." We took down our Kinect system because the idea of what that camera can do if made to do it freaked us out. I also have post its over my Macs and other apple cameras as well, just in case. Not that we have anything worth a crap in our house, but I don't really want to give anyone with nefarious ideas any further ammunition in the event something happened. 

Image via The Verge

I, right now, still have my email linked through Google because of Google Apps, and my blog on Blogger, though I am exploring the new Ghost platform as a possibility or a self-hosted option (You will get warning when and if it happens, dear reader.) Admittedly, due to that, obviously I have some linkage issues. But besides that, I don't like being tracked by a corporation, especially not inside my home and I just don't trust that it won't all get linked and that more sensors and whirly-gigs won't get added to future iterations of Nest products with time in the "new and improved" version that gives Google everything it wants. 

It's not that I think "Google" is evil on it's own, but the people running it have some pretty cruel intentions.  The problem is less about the alliance RIGHT NOW, but more that the potential that is there. 

So Nest tells Google you're home now after it knew you were gone all night. Then it checks your Google Phone and the Google Phone of the person you brought home with you tonight, and then it notes it is someone different from last night's bar hopping expedition based on that other person's Google Phone signal tracked the GPS whereabouts of all night, and that gets linked together, and now Google knows that you get around and you quite like to party. Then, it knows what you paid for with Google Wallet or the Square receipt that was emailed to your Gmail account. Suddenly you're getting ads for champagne on your Google Tunes Barry White station, and in the morning Aspirin and Valtrex and Viagra ads show up in your email and online.  It's all a little too close for comfort.  

Ars Technica shines some light on even more concerns (much more eloquently) for what could become of your Nest + Google data after this acquisition. Enlightening and enough to induce nightmares.

The privacy issues are staggering, and when you pile on the whole Snowden-NSA thing...it really makes you question an even bigger picture: Why is it that the only voices matter anymore are those of business and millionaires? When did the people and what's best for them stop being of any importance? Why is everything a "matter of national security" when it's clear a matter of controlling the money?

What are your thoughts on this? Does it scare the shit out of you, too?

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  1. I'm a little weary of these appliances and whatnot that connect to the internet in general. It's not just a privacy concern, but a security concern. If these devices are not properly implemented or patched, it's a potential attack vector into a home network. It might not be long before we start seeing Denial of Service attacks spearheaded by a refrigerator botnets :).

    1. An attack by my refrigerator might be useful though: "no you may not have more food, ame, you've had enough!"


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