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Tuesday, 13 February 2018 09:55

Google-Nest merger will allow slurping up of more data Featured

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Google appears to have increased the scope of the data it collects by folding the hardware team of Nest, a maker of smart thermostats and smoke alarms that its parent Alphabet bought in 2014 for US$3.2 billion, into the Google Hardware team.

Apart from these products, Nest also makes Internet-connected security cameras and a doorbell with a camera.

Nest co-founder Tony Fadell said in July 2015 that the data collected by its products would be kept separate from the massive amount of information that Google collects.

The security website Sophos quoted Fadell as telling the BBC: "When you work with Nest and use Nest products, that data does not go into the greater Google or any of [its] other business units.

"We have a certain set of terms and policies and things that are governed. So, just when you say we may be owned by Google, it doesn’t mean that the data is open to everyone inside the company or even any other business group – and vice versa. We have to be very clear on that."

But those promises on data privacy have now gone up in smoke with the two teams working together as one. The change came after two years of poor earnings by Nest, a bid by Google to hawk the unit, and poor earnings by Google's parent company Alphabet this month.

slurp big

Nest chief executive Marwan Fawaz said on the company's blog that the aim was to "supercharge Nest’s mission", which was to “create a more thoughtful home, one that takes care of the people inside it and the world around it".

The BBC asked Google about the integration of the two teams and got the following reply: "Nest users' data will continue to be used for the limited purposes described in our privacy statement like providing, developing, and improving Nest services and products.

"As we develop future plans and future product integrations, we will be transparent with users about the benefits of those integrations, any changes to the handling of data, and the choices available to consumers in connection with those changes."

But the Big Brother Watch campaign group expressed scepticism about the reaction. "Google already harvests an incredible amount of detailed information about millions of Internet users around the globe," director Silkie Carlo told the BBC.

"Now, Google is becoming embedded in the home, through 'smart' soft surveillance products.

"Adding data from Nest's home sensors and security cameras will significantly expand Google's monopoly on personal data. Many customers will be justifiably anxious about Google's growing, centralised trove, especially given that its business model relies on data exploitation."

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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