Google Nest Ignites Discussions About IoT Transparency

Smart security cameras
While Google Nest security cameras are built primarily for consumers to use in their homes, many individuals use the products to help monitor and secure their offices or small businesses.

Nest made waves in the news this week when it released a statement about changes to its privacy policy regarding cameras and other products which affect their use and the ability to provide discreet security.

Essentially, users of Nest Cam, Dropcam, and Nest Hello, will no longer be able to turn off the LED light of the cameras, only dim them, when the camera is on and recording. Now, the light will blink when in use which has angered many users who rely on these cameras to protect them from theft.

“As part of our commitment to privacy, we explained that you would always see a clear visual indicator when your Nest cameras are on and sending video and audio to Google,” a spokesperson for the company said via email.

In the home, many consumers often use Nest security cameras as baby monitors which has upset users who are worried about having a flashing light disrupt their sleeping baby.

The typical cost of each Nest camera is $200 USD, but individuals often purchase multiple cameras to monitor both the inside and outside of their spaces to effectively secure and detect all movement and activity.

While Google is attempting to prevent nefarious use of its cameras, users are taking to Google Nest support forums to voice their concerns.

“A flashlight on a security camera? I’ve never heard of something like this before,” wrote one user, Muhammad Malik. “Now the bad guys know exactly where all my cameras are placed in and outdoors and can even know when I’m actively monitoring them. End users should be able to opt out of this and maintain full control of their cameras.”

Another user, Brian Philpott, who uses his camera to monitor for intruders wrote, “the last thing that I want is for [trespassers] to immediately become aware of the camera! How is this not my choice to have the status light on or not?”

This instance opens up larger conversations about IoT uses and transparency. Should space inhabitants, workers, or even trespassers be made fully aware of all instances in which they’re being monitored? Does this level of transparency defeat the very purpose of what these security cameras were designed to accomplish, or does it truly prevent unjust or reprehensible uses of the cameras?

If you are using Google Nest products in your office or small business, it’s worthwhile to note settings you should consider adjusting to accommodate for its limitations. Google Nest is not certified to the standards applied to a commercial security system.

If you want to learn more about how to better secure your business, large or small, feel free to reach out to us.

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