Immediately following the release, Nest held a Q&A session addressing the privacy issues everyone feared. After all, why would we want one of the largest data collectors in the world knowing where we are in our homes at all times? Nest assures that data collected will stay within Nest services, as existing customers were promised upon purchase.
The issue I want to explore isn’t whether or not they are actually sharing data, it’s the immediate fear of a thermostat. Smart homes are clearly the wave of the future in technology, but fear was never really attached to that sentiment before. In fact, in recent years, I’ve had the feeling that people were generally excited for new technologies and ways to make their lives easier. But since the epic NSA scandal, data sharing now breeds a culture of fear around technology that I thought we had pretty much moved past.
While this acquisition gives hope to a lot of tech startups that they could one day be scooped up by a Google or an Apple to go truly mainstream, it has put the fear of God (or more accurately, the government) in consumers just wanting to keep their homes up to the smart standards of their neighbors’. This psychology of fear is what those late-Internet-adopters have been thinking and saying all along – and now that’s, unfortunately, what’s going mainstream. And we thought they were the crazy ones!
Homes are really the final frontier of our analog lives. Remember when iPhones first came out? They completely revolutionized communication and connectivity to your world. This could be the next chapter in that line of innovation, but partnering with Google really could scare a lot of consumers away. A year ago, this would have been one of the most exciting tech developments yet.
I’m tempted to say that this deal could actually backfire on them – concerns over privacy trumping consumers’ needs for a smart home – but, come on, it’s Google.
At this point, Nest has a lot of explaining to do. They need to find a way to prove to customers and prospects that their data really is safe. While they did answer the question in the Q&A, Forbes quoted Electronic Frontier Foundation activist, Parker Higgins, on the statement Nest made about privacy following the acquisition, “Technology companies have a history of putting out carefully-worded statements and then figuring out a way to do what they want to do”.