Josh del Sol
Two weeks ago, the New York Times’ truth-humor strip on “The Home of the Future” came on the heels of Google’s purchase of ‘smart thermostat’ manufacturer Nest for $3.2 Billion. With power utility commissions such as California already stating their intention to “expand third-party access” to in-home data, the perfect storm is brewing for Google’s mission of making you their product – even in your own home.
For context, this is the same Google whose executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, told MSNBC:
If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.
While pushing to nullify privacy laws, the Big G obviously doesn’t care about pesky old-fashioned encumbrances like ethics either, as evidenced by this gem:
I would argue that [us] implanting things in your brain is beyond the creepy line – at least for the moment, until the technology gets better.
The timing of Google’s purchase announcement is interesting, coming only a couple weeks after US federal judge William Pauley ruled that the unwarranted NSA phone surveillance against US citizens is legal.
However, federal judge Richard Leon, the European Union, and the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board have all strongly condemned the spy programs. (The credibility of the Justice Department is in serious question, following revelations that last April it had secretly inked a deal with the Obama Administration to help corporations evade federal wiretap laws.)
The Battleground Hits Home
So where does a ‘smart thermostat’ fit in the current corporatist drive for total in-home surveillance?
For the last couple of years, utilities around the globe have all been touting their new metering systems with buzzwords such as ‘smart’, ‘advanced’, ‘upgraded’, or ‘modernized’. All rhetoric aside, these devices are intended to integrate with all appliances in your home to form an inescapable wireless data-mining dragnet, dubbed as the “home area network”, with your HVAC and likely other in-home systems overseen by spy-giant Google, if they get their way.
As we’ve seen, even former CIA director David Petraeus was publicly frothing over having the ability to spy through ‘smart’ appliances, intended to wirelessly report back to the meter continuously, while receiving energy-use dictates from the meter.
According to a US Congressional Research Report:
With smart meters, police will have access to data that might be used to track residents’ daily lives and routines while in their homes, including their eating, sleeping, and showering habits, what appliances they use and when, and whether they prefer the television to the treadmill, among a host of other details.
California-based Nest makes thermostats and smoke alarms that connect to the internet, allowing people to remotely monitor and control them from their smartphones.
The company was founded by Tony Fadell, a former Apple executive dubbed the “godfather of the iPod” for his work on the MP3 player. He left the position of head of music at Apple in 2008 to found Nest.
Nest launched is first thermostat in 2011 and says its products are now in over a million homes. Late last year the company made its first foray into the UK market, launching its smoke alarm here.
Fadell said in a statement: “We’re thrilled to join Google. With their support, Nest will be even better placed to build simple, thoughtful devices that make life easier at home, and that have a positive impact on the world.”