January 14, 2014

Nest News

There’s no doubt about it: Nest is a fascinating company. From a business and technology perspective, they have been the game-changers at the intersection of home automation and energy. They helped create the market, then found the perfect product-market fit. I hear that’s hard. Google tried and failed largely because of design. These guys got that right too. So it’s no surprise that Google is acquiring Nest for $3.2 billion.

Is This a Privacy Issue?

Some people certainly think so. In fact, there is no shortage of outcry here. Most experts think this situation is a different kind of privacy threat. I suppose I would agree, but it seems we’re only now becoming aware of the issues we’ve had for years…

Life in a Box

I have an Android smartphone. A Moto X, in fact. This phone is a technical wonder. And it knows everything about me. After all, it is equipped with an amazing number of sensors: microphone, GPS receiver, camera, accelerometer, magnetometer, proximity sensor, and ambient light sensor. Also, it’s almost constantly connected to everything else via 4G or WiFi. I bring this phone almost everywhere I go. Is there a single technical reason to have an expectation of privacy? Not on your life!

Back to Trust

The privacy buzz is not the technical issue it seems to be. For the last few years, Google has had the technical means to severely invade my privacy. Somewhere along the line, I made my own accessment on where Google is on my “trust meter”. At one extreme, Google is evil and bent on my destruction. At the other extreme, Google is looking out for my well-being at every turn. Of course, reality falls somewhere in between. And it seems to change daily. To me, that’s the worrisome part.

Yes, I have an expectation of privacy. An expectation that depends on trust. If they cross the line in that regard, there is no “arm’s length” relationship possible. Only a nuclear option with lots of unplugging. Especially all those Nests.


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