Steve’s been talking about getting a Nest thermostat for a long time. “Most people leave the house at one temperature and forget to change it. So the Nest Learning Thermostat learns your schedule, programs itself and can be controlled from your phone. Teach it well and the Nest Thermostat can lower your heating and cooling bills up to 20%.”

Well, Google bought Nest last month for $3.2 billion. Some believe that this yet another way that Google can learn about your habits, even when you’re on the computer. From Wired,

The paramount value of the devices, in a sense, lies not in the hardware itself but the interconnectedness of that hardware. As the devices talk to each other, by building an aggregate picture of human behavior, they anticipate what we want before even we know.

Does this freak you out?


33 thoughts on “Nest

  1. We have the Phillips Hue light system — interconnected control of lights in the house, with LED lights. We haven’t replaced all the lights in the house, but have replaced a lot of them.

    You can control the Hue lights via the internet (when spouse has traveled, he sometimes changes our lights to funny colors for fun, just so that he knows he is thinking of us). And, with an internet site called IFTTT (If This, Then That), you can program the lights to do things based on time of day, sunset time, Seahawks games, or Penguins scores. So, our house lights (all of them) flash on and off at 9:15 PM (bedtime) and 7:30 (when the kids leave for carpool). Some of the lights turn blue when there’s a final score in a Penguin’s game.

    At the IFTTT site, you can also program your apps/internet so that when you enter a location, music plays (say, if you want to preannounce your arrival at home :-).

    The lights also turn on in the morning and turn off at night.

    The other day, my daughter left her backpack with her iPhone at a game. We asked a friend to pick it up for us, and then realized that we can track the friends location via the iPhone (that was quite freaky, and did worry us, since it seems an inadvertent violation of privacy).

    Does this freak us out? a little bit, but we also love it. This stuff was possible, but now, it’s so easy to do that anyone can do it.

    1. Yup, I totally get that. The question is, how do you react when you’re in someone else’s house? We do try to inform people of the lights and cameras (and, our cameras are in public spaces in the house), but, yeah, we can turn on and off the lights in our guest bedrooms while we’re at work.

  2. My husband and I were excited about Nest till it was bought by Google. Yes, it weirds us out.

    We use Waze and Find My Friends. I did annoy my husband the other day when I texted him to ask where he was. I had just told him I’d been to the grocery store, and FMF said he was over by the grocery store, so I wanted to remind him I’d just been there. He was kind of annoyed that I saw him there.

    On the other hand, he likes FMF because I’m not always asking him when he’s coming home. I just check FMF to see if he’s still in the office. He used to think I would call or email because I wanted him home. No, I just want to know *when* he will be home.

    1. I don’t know what Find My Friends is, but I’m not actually up to anything bad and I have no desire at all to let everybody know where I am.

  3. So, I was just chatting with my editor at the Atlantic about doing an article about privacy issues around mobile ads, Facebook, and Nest. My hubby has been ranting about this topic for a week.

    The editor said that they’ve run articles like this before and they never get any traffic. Once you start talking about the technical stuff about how these systems use your data, people lose interest. In general, people aren’t that worried about their personal info being used by businesses. They gladly trade their freedom and privacy for Candy Crush. I think that’s one of the reasons why Edward Snowden never got much support from the public. People just don’t care about their privacy anymore.

    1. It’s true; we’ve become numb to the surveillance state.

      I just showed the first half of The Net to one of my classes this morning (we’re doing a theme on technology). The movie came out in 1995. And it’s paranoid like hell about something so incredibly alien to my students–the idea that your identity could be erased because everything is on the Internet. My students only *wish* that their identities could be erased on the Internet. All that is drummed into them is that everything they post on the Internet is permanent.

      We’ve come a … way, baby.

      1. the surveillance state

        The surveillance state and the surveillance spouse are related, but fundamentally distinct, issues.

      2. Yes, to MH’s comment. I was very supportive of Snowden — I think what he exposed was extremely important for us to know, because of the state’s involvement. It created a significant concern about the business model of the big internet companies, which rely on data collected for people voluntarily submitting — but not necessarily to the state collecting their data.

    1. Fascinating. And, I suspect more and more units are going to have features like this built into them. I can monitor my computer remotely, for example. Not a big step to also be able to monitor your television.

  4. We certainly have — traded lots of privacy for toys. Not video games, ’cause we don’t play those, but playing with the lights, people tracking, etc..

    it’s interesting that articles don’t get traction, and I wonder if it’s deeper than just “not being interested”, rather people actually actively don’t want to think about it.

    I wonder if there’s an article angle based on other people’s decisions impacting your privacy? there, the cognitive dissonance of not necessarily wanting to have given up the privacy, and thinking it doesn’t matter without thinking about it too much doesn’t apply).

    We felt kind of bad about the tracking app on my daughter’s phone impacting the privacy of someone who was doing us a favor. We don’t normally track it, but we tracked it to see if indeed, she had actually left her bag at the game, and then, we could see when it started moving. And, of course, we’ve already been able to track when our daughter is there — we don’t think of that as tracking the other person, but it does, but in this case, she wasn’t with them.

    We also have security cameras in our home, mostly for monitoring our house when we’re traveling. But, that does mean that anyone who enters our home can be documented (I’m not paying for the service that allows you to go back and review video, but it’s possible with the camera).

    Photos of other people’s kids also seem to be of concern — what are the rules, say, about sharing pictures of your own kids when they are with other kids? I generally don’t post my kids’ pictures on facebook or other public sites. I do use them in a private blog and I put almost all my photos onto a password protected photo sharing site. I have acquaintances who don’t want pictures of their kids on the internet at all. I try to respect this, now, by not taking pictures of their child, but, it requires planning, and it creates problems for group photos. Another acquaintance and I have a detente — she’s vaguely uncomfortable with pictures on the internet, but avoiding pictures of her child would severely impact my ability to document my own children, so she doesn’t look, and I don’t post pictures in public places. I myself don’t post pictures of my kids in public, but they are now involved in activities (drama, sports, etc. where their pictures are posted on public pages and I don’t want to fight against that).

    And, my daughter is currently battling her friends over instagram photos — she got into a big argument with a friend who hashtagged her name with a photo. We discussed, and decided that a reasonable request would be to ask people not to hashtag pictures with her name, but that asking them not to include pictures of her in their instagram feeds would probably be severely limiting of her social life.

    (Oops, am writing my own blog post, but I thought maybe it would be fodder for thinking of articles).

    1. I am less freaked out about Google or Facebook using my data that the government because Google etc give me toys in exchange. I am not clear what I am supposedly getting from the government. It isn’t security. It really seems more like a threat – that if I anger the wrong person, it will be used against me in very ugly ways.

      1. Tulip said:

        “I am less freaked out about Google or Facebook using my data that the government because Google etc give me toys in exchange.”

        The problem is that the big tech companies are being leaned on by the feds, so whatever the tech companies collect will eventually wind up in federal hands. It feels like there’s essentially no difference, at least when dealing with US companies.

        For years, I’ve been using what turns out to be a European-based email service. It was accidental at the time, but it feels like a plus now. (Their home page recently had a big ad boasting of the fact that unlike other companies they could name, they don’t invade customer privacy.) I’ve never been able to warm up to gmail, given the ads keyed to whatever you’re writing about, although I don’t mind so much having my searches and browsing history generating ads. Using my emails to generate ads feels much more invasive. (My husband actually likes having his emails generate ads.)

        “It really seems more like a threat – that if I anger the wrong person, it will be used against me in very ugly ways.”


    2. We’re getting to that age with our kids. I’m settling the stuff on a case-by-case basis. I generally approve the use of photos for publicity purposes, but at least when the kids were littler, I didn’t want their names on those photos. Recently, my 6th grade daughter won a raffle at the place where she does therapeutic riding and they wanted to use the picture (which showed her joyously receiving a huge stuffed animal) in the calendar that they sell as a fundraiser. I approved that, but without the use of her name. She also recently came in second at our school spelling bee, and I did approve the release of her name for that. At this point, it’s time to start generating a positive Google record for her, so I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

      Then there’s the other extreme.

  5. Maybe there’s more traction when you think about how your friends are using your data, rather than a faceless entity like Google making Foundation style predictions based on aggregate data?

  6. A few weeks ago, Jonah shaved for the first time, but nobody told me about it, until I asked why Jonah had bandaids all over his face. I guess nobody wanted that milestone blogged. Boooooo.

    1. It gets easier to leave your kid’s milestones behind as they age. My older daughters are now 22 and 19. You can imagine the “baby’s first…” things I could’ve blogged about in the last five years. It’s all freaky as a parent. Mostly, how am I old enough to have a kid X, Y or Z when I was just doing it yesterday. I’m too damn young and don’t know how to properly deal with some of it. But it’s unbloggable. Except by them, and then I think it’s on Tumblr and Snapchat instead.

      1. Yeah. I’m trying to get mine to blog; then they can choose their stories, and, honestly, they do like looking over their lives. The littler one still lets me blog his milestones. The older is starting to cut me off except for the most official of them (like a birthday).

      2. I printed out a print version of my blog this past year, primarily for my big kids. I didn’t edit any posts, but I cut out the more adult interest posts and less interesting kid posts as the thing covered 5+ years and was freaking huge. It was a tough question how many of the potty training posts to include, as I did literally dozens of them–the middle child was nearly 4.5 before he was potty-trained. He didn’t seem that embarrassed by it. I’ve made it clear to both children that they both took a long, long time.

        Both big kids really enjoyed reading the blog, and I think one of them was even reading it on a Kindle.

  7. I truly don’t understand that valuation.. we already have a programmable thermostat which can be controlled from the home where we live, if the program needs to be overridden. Why would I need to change the temperature in my home remotely ?
    I already know our routine and program the temperature appropriately. Nest will attempt to learn this routine but won’t be able to figure out exceptions. It’s like, a solution in search of a problem.. except of course that Nest has successfully sold some product.
    That valuation does make me think Google is up to something, but it’s not at all clear what it is.

    1. I think it’s the first replacement for a non-programmable thermostat (assuming there are still people who have those). Then, the benefit over programmable thermostats, is that you don’t have to figure out your needs and program them ahead of time. If your schedule is variable, and you come home at different times of day on different days, you can program that variability in schedule, day by day, month by month. And, presumably, you can just manually turn on the thermostat an hour before you head home, say when you leave the office.

      We really do benefit from our automatic light system, but our house is a big house, with a lot of lights, and it is a renovated house in which light switch placement was not carefully considered (say, to turn on the living room lights, you have to go to 3 different places).

      1. a non-programmable thermostat (assuming there are still people who have those)

        You don’t live somewhere with a very old housing stock?

    2. But, our use doesn’t particularly explain the price Google paid for Nest. They must have more extravagant plans than the decrease in annoyance we benefit from.

  8. I don’t particularly like either big companies or big government keeping all sorts of data about it, but I accept that it’s the price of the modern high tech world. Gmail is free because they scan your email to target ads. The average privacy policy is about 2500 words*. A privacy policy that long actually means not that much privacy. Then the NSA shows up and says scan for things that make us think you’re a terrorist. So they do. If Google said no, the NSA would probably hack into them and do it anyway. You can bet your bottom dollar China and Russia would (are) if they could (can) too.

    They don’t say no the NSA of course because the law compels them. While it is cute that Congressional Republicans have suddenly decided that they hate the surveillance state they built and Democrats have suddenly decided that its awesome… Congress made the laws and appropriated the money. And to the extent they didn’t know it is hard not to call it willful blindness.

    More broadly it seems to me that on the internet we are all out there, interacting with the world. It may feel private because I’m at home in my PJs… but it’s not. I’m sending messages and receiving them, to other people, over systems owned by someone else. No matter how private it seems, it only seems that way. It’s not exactly public either. But lots of entities know what you do online, and if they decide they want to watch closely they can. I think that might well be a technical inevitability of the internet, though I’m sure smarter people then me are out there trying to change that.

  9. I don’t like the idea of Google having my email, but I still want a Google Car. That trade-off would be totally worth it in terms of convenience and quality of life (and probably safety, too).

  10. We just upgraded to a programmable thermostat two years ago. We don’t get much use out of its features except for it turning way down while we’re asleep. That’s because someone’s almost always in the house so we can’t turn it way down during the day or one of us would freeze.

    Sadly, another sticking point is that our smartphones don’t have enough memory to add more apps to monitor a thermostat, anyway. I’ll stick with this one for now.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s