Google Buys Dropcam: What This Means For Privacy


Google Buys Dropcam And Enters Home Security Industry

With Google I/O quickly approaching, many are carefully watching to see what the Internet giant has in store for us in the coming years. Most prevalent in recent news is Google’s acquisition of the home surveillance device, DropCam. The company, priced at $555 million, will be owned by Nest, the smart thermostat maker Google acquired in January of this year. The highly-discussed Nest purchase marked Google’s entrance into the home automation market and established them as competitors among a variety of companies, most notably Apple. Since Nest came under Google’s domain, they’ve announced the Developer Program, an open API which will allow different devices and software to interact with the smart device. This software currently supports Nest’s interaction with Jawbone, Mercedes-Benz, Whirlpool, and others, allowing for a variety of new features for the thermostat. With this direction of software development, it’s clear that Google didn’t just buy Nest in order to have stock in the utilities market. Instead, Nest represents Google’s decision to begin serious work on a centralized smart home hub. Google’s purchase of Dropcam is a continuation of this work, and Dropcam will be joining Nest in the developing ‘Google Smart Home Family’.

SEE ALSO: 5 Biggest Announcements From Google I/O 2014

What Dropcam Offers

Dropcam is a small, modern security camera. While their website advertises more lighthearted functions of Dropcam, such as using the two-way talk feature to communicate with pets or children from the mobile app, there’s little doubt that Dropcam is first and foremost a home security device.   The gadget features high-definition video recording at 30 fps, making it a stark improvement to the dark, grainy security cam footage we’re used to. Dropcam also emphasizes a feature which uploads the last seven days of security footage to the cloud, making it possible to access, playback, and save this footage from any device.

Dropcam's Newest Feature: Dropcam Tabs

Why Google Bought It

Dropcam was a top seller on Amazon since its debut in 2012, and was lauded by PCMag as “the best consumer-grade video-surveillance camera [they’ve] ever tested.” It’s priced at $149, with the pro version at $200, making Dropcam cheaper than most regular security camera alternatives. All setup takes is connecting the device to your home’s WiFi, and controlling the device can be done either from the mobile or internet app. All in all, Dropcam’s successes can be explained by the phrase “consumer accessible.” Cheap, convenient, easy to set up, and easy to use, Dropcam CEO Greg Duffy stated that the device was “born out of frustration with outdated, complicated products that do the opposite of making life better.” In this way, it becomes a very clear addition to Google’s slowly growing home automation family, mirroring Nest’s focus on streamlined accessibility. While Dropcam doesn’t currently integrate with Nest in any way, Nest CEO Matt Rogers stated in a blog post that “the plan is for us to work together to reinvent products that will help shape the future of the conscious home”.

The Smart Home and Privacy Invasion

As great as Dropcam sounds—whether you’re a techie waiting for the smart home or just excited about low-priced, comprehensive security—it also makes a lot of people concerned about privacy. After all, Dropcam not only records your home, storing the data on the cloud, but it’s also owned by Google. If you own an Android phone, use Chrome as your default browser, or use any of Google’s variety of other products, you can begin to see how Google is creeping into lots of little parts of your life. With the acquisition of Nest and Dropcam, Google has made a very clear move into people’s homes and because of this, now has the opportunity to acquire a very large amount of information about your life. Their unofficial “don’t be evil” motto hints at the company’s opinion on abusing user information, but the rise of NSA requests for user account info and the future possibility of in-home ads keeps Google’s stake in home automation from being a worry-free experience.

Nest’s Privacy Policy: A Small Comfort for Smart Home Privacy?

In light of these possible risks, Dropcam and Nest are trying to quell Big Brother anxieties, and understandably so. Dropcam falls under Nest’s jurisdiction, not Google’s. Nest has previously emphasized that their customer-focused privacy policy means they won’t be giving user information to any company. While Google still owns Nest, this distinction means that Google doesn’t have any access to the information Dropcam can provide—for now, at least. For many, however, this disclaimer isn't so reassuring. For those who are interested in innovative technologies, like Dropcam, but are weary of the privacy issues they involve, traditional home security systems might be a better solution. In this way, a security system that's equipped with home automation devices can keep your home safe without compromising your privacy.

SEE ALSO: Nest: Leading Home Automation

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