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Google’s Nest Purchase Raises Privacy Concerns

Submitted by on January 16, 2014 – 9:59 amNo Comment

Search engine giant Google announced this week that it had purchased home technology maker Nest for $3.2 billion. The deal has raised concerns among privacy advocates who are wary of Google’s record, and hesitant to give the company access to offline personal data.

Nest is a smart home products company that was founded by former Apple engineers who wanted to bring that company’s sleek designs and intuitive programing to an industry that hadn’t changed much in decades. Nest’s most famous product is a smart thermostat, which looks like a futuristic device, and learns the habits of homeowners to anticipate heat needs and lower costs. The company has also announced plans for a smoke detector.

The devices are wi-fi enabled, and can be controlled from tablets and smartphones. They are part of the “Internet of Things:” connected, programmable home devices that many believe to be the next big wave of tech development. But the beneficial way that these devices bridge the online and offline worlds raises a host of concerns.

“Now with the Internet of Things emerging, there is every reason to believe that Google will use Nest data for marketing and deeper profiling of consumers,” said Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, to the Seattle Times. The article also profiled several homeowners who say they will uninstall or refrain from using their Nest now.

After the deal was announced, Nest released a statement saying:

“Our privacy policy clearly limits the use of customer information to providing and improving Nest’s products and services. We’ve always taken privacy seriously, and this will not change.”

But the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Parker Higgins told Forbes that “[t]echnology companies have a history of putting out carefully-worded statements and then figuring out a way to do what they want to do.”

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