After Google acquired Nest for a cool $3.2 billion a few weeks back, there has been an – in my opinion – well-justified uproar regarding how the data from Nest is going to be handled. Unlike on a web property whereby you have control over every single one of your actions, Nest by default resides in your house (the moment it’s out of the box) and it’s constantly on. Therefore, should there be a data breach on the Nest platform, the users stand to lose way more than say, if Google accidentally leaks out a user’s age, phone number and personal information along those lines.
But to get right down to the point, here’s why that fears of current Nest owners is justified: Google OWNS Nest. And Google’s reputation with regards to protection of the user’s privacy isn’t exactly famed in a good way. More often then not, Google would just apologize for a data breach of their users’ personal information, give a half-assed apology and rationalize that since the users are so reliant on Google’s free services, there’s really no need for them to do anything more about it. That’s Google’s logic. And very soon, it might be Nest’s too.
Once Nest is a part of Google (as it is right now), their data (your data essentially) belongs to the almighty overlord Google. If Google wants to do something will just simply ask Nest for it. Hey, Google owns them after all.
If Google says “hey Nest, we need some of your data to supplement our ad targeting services but we need you to keep your mouth shut and not tell anyone about it,” Nest will have to oblige… because they’re owned by Google.
Apart from the inherent moral obligation and human decency (which we all very well know Google throws out of the window the moment a piece of paper with a dollar sign is shoved in front of their faces) issues, there’s absolutely nothing to stop Google from using your data for boost their ad services.
Absolutely nothing at all.
And Google as a company doesn’t really have the reputation of asking their users, “hey can we use your data please???” They don’t need to – once again, they can rationalize that even if they don’t do it and people realize that their trust have been violated, there’s nothing we can really do about it. Most of us are slaves to Google’s free services anyway.
If and when they want to use your data from Nest, there’s no rule (explicit or implicit) that states they have to ask you first. And when the inevitable scandal breaks out that they’ve been using your data behind your back without asking you, they’re not obligated to apologize either.
Nest owners, get this: Google – not Nest – owns your data now. Not just any data, but data received from your very most intimate space – your own house.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that Google will do such a thing but if history shows anything at all about Google as a company, the “don’t be evil” mantra seems to be nothing more than an unified corporate pacifier to keep the shareholders happy at the time.
Don’t get me wrong: Nest was incredibly smart to take this deal. Not many companies can amass that kind of valuation and exit so smoothly in just a few years. But it just sucks for the customers who went ahead and bought Nest’s products thinking that they would remain an independent company and not sell-out to a huge giant user-data-exploitation-focused company.