Google could serve ads to your Nest in the future

Nest Thermostat and Protect (lifestyle 001)

Google has hinted in a filing with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that it’s envisioning the future in which ads could be served to a dizzying range of devices such as thermostats, refrigerators, cars and more.

Based on a letter Google sent to the SEC in December, which was disclosed Tuesday and picked up by the Wall Street Journal, its advertising content could in the not-so-distant future appear on “refrigerators, car dashboards, thermostats, glasses, and watches, to name just a few possibilities.”

Google shocked watchers after announcing its $3.2 billion acquisition of smart thermostat maker Nest Labs back in January. Immediately, watchers expressed concern over the repercussions of the buy. Nest co-founder Tony Fadell responded by assuring customers in a blog post that Nest won’t share their data with Google…

UPDATE: Google provide the following statement to Engadget:

We are in contact with the SEC to clarify the language in this 2013 filing, which does not reflect Google’s product roadmap. Nest, which we acquired after this filing was made, does not have an ads-based model and has never had any such plans.

Here’s what Fadell originally stated:

Our privacy policy clearly limits the use of customer information to providing and improving Nest’s products and services. We’ve always taken privacy seriously and this will not change.

Soon after, he backtracked on the claim and clarified that any data gathered by Nest devices will be “transparent and opt-in”, here’s the full quote:

At this point, there are no changes. The data that we collect is all about our products and improving them.

If there were ever any changes whatsoever, we would be sure to be transparent about it, number one, and number two for you to opt-in to it.

I’ve found the statement rather ambiguous and Google’s SEC filing confirms my fears were founded all along.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Google penned a letter to the SEC arguing it shouldn’t be forced to disclose revenue generated from mobile devices because the definition of mobile will “continue to evolve” as more smart devices roll out.

“Our expectation is that users will be using our services and viewing our ads on an increasingly wide diversity of devices in the future,” the company said in the filing. And these “increasingly wide diversity of devices” would presumably run Android.

Google In January formed the Open Automotive Alliance with Audi, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai and other car makers. The search giant is also entering the wearable market with the Android Wear software to power fitness bands, smartwatches and similar devices worn on one’s body.

Nest Protect (image 001)
Nest’s smoke alarm device.

I find it disturbing that Google specifically mentions advertising on “thermostats”, given the only thermostats the company sells are those produced by its Nest Labs unit.

I’m willing to put up with some advertising in exchange for free services, but Nest is a paid product and it just doesn’t make sense to even consider serving ads to Nest’s paying customers.

Also, what about ads in “cars”, as Google put it?

Google self-driving car (image 001)

As you know, Google’s founder Larry Page is adamant on putting the company’s self-driving cars on the streets.

Curiously enough, the Internet giant is bragging that its self-driving cars have never gotten a ticket, going as far as to argue that it, not the person in the driver’s seat, should get the ticket, as per The Atlantic.

Anyway, I imagine a lot of people would tore their Nests off the wall the instant they start seeing Google ads pushed to their thermostats.

On a related note, The Associated Press just reported that Nest is recalling 440,000 smoke alarms to fix a Protect Wave feature which could prevent the alarm from sounding immediately.

Nest halted all new sales of the $129 Nest Protect Smoke + CO last month after recognizing the problem. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission confirmed that the recall applies to all of the Nest Protect Smoke + CO alarms.

I guess Apple’s decision to pass on the Nest buy is not looking so silly right now…