Google-Nest merger raises privacy issues

Getty Images

Tech giant Alphabet is the merger of Google and Nest divisions together.

The company suggests that the move will help its efforts to build the hardware and the software to “create a more thoughtful home.”

Nest had stood as an independent unit since its $3.2 million (£2.3 bn) takeover in 2014. Their smart home products, benefit from the collection of data about their users.

Nest promised previously the data will be kept separate from Google’s other operations. Privacy campaigners have raised concerns in the reorganization.

But Google has said it will be “transparent” about the changes that may be made.
‘Consumer choice’

The nests of the products include:
connected to the internet, security cameras inside and outside the house
the thermostats that use motion-detection sensors to detect when the owners are about
a camera equipped door bell
a movement-detection alarm system and smoke detectors

In addition, the division of the application can be configured to collect data from other products – including automobiles, ovens, fitness trackers and even sensor-equipped beds – to help with energy savings… and stay safe”.

Google

In July 2015, Tony Fadell – the co-founder and former head of Nest – told the BBC that the consumers can be assured that efforts had been made to ringfence these data and to avoid mixing with all the information Google gathered about the public.

“When you are working with Nest and the use of Nest products, that the data does not go into the higher Google or any of its other business units,” he explained.

“We have a certain set of conditions, and the policies and things that are governed.

“So, when I say that may be the property of Google, this does not mean that the data is open to any person within the company or even of any other group of business – and vice versa.

“We have to be very clear on that.”

Getty Images

When the BBC asked Google if that promise would be respected in the future, provided the following statement:

“Nest of the users’ data will continue to be used for the limited purposes described in our privacy statement with the supply, development, and improving Nest products and services,” he said.

“As we develop plans for the future and the future of the integration of the products, we will be transparent with users about the benefits of these integrations, the changes in the management of data, and the options available to the consumer in relation to those changes.”

The company also provides a link to its current privacy policy, which states that notice shall be given of any change in your web site or by contacting customers directly.Data ‘harvesting’

The Big Brother Watch campaign group said it was concerned by the development.

“Google already harvest an incredible amount of detailed information about millions of internet users around the world,” the director said Silkie Carlo.

“Now, Google is becoming embedded in the home through the ‘smart’ soft surveillance products.

“The addition of the data of Nest, the home of sensors and security cameras will significantly expand Google’s monopoly of personal data. Many clients are justifiably anxious about Google is growing, centralized treasury, especially taking into account that its business model is based on the data of the operation.”

Another company watcher said that there will be advantages of allow Google engineers working on the smart Home speaker and the other the hardware Wizard enabled to work together to their Nest counterparts.

But he acknowledged that some device owners would still be concerned.

“It would be naive to expect that as a Nest is folded into the larger Google entity, there are no efforts to bring it to their platforms and all of the intelligence together,” said Ben Wood from the CCS Insight consultancy.

“It will be positioned as the improvement of the products, but for some of the customers that may be something that feels uncomfortable.”