Nest is a home automation company that Google bought in 2014, turned into an independent unit of Alphabet, then re-merged with Google again in 2018 (demonstrating that the "whole independent companies under Alphabet" thing was just a flag of convenience for tax purposes); the company has always focused on "ease of use" over security and internecine warfare between different dukes and lords of Google meant that it was never properly integrated with Google's security team, which is why, over and over again, people who own Nest cameras discover strangers staring at them from their unblinking camera eyes, sometimes shouting obscenities.
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40 years ago, antitrust law put strict limits on mergers and acquisitions, but since the Reagan era, these firewalls have been dismantled, and now the biggest companies grow primarily by snapping up nascent competitors and merging with rivals; Google is a poster-child for this, having only ever created two successful products in-house (search and Gmail), with all other growth coming from acquisitions and mergers.
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Nest is the Internet of Shit company Google bought and steadily expanded from "smart" thermostats to the current home security product, "Nest Secure," which has an undisclosed microphone -- but don't worry, it wasn't intended to be a secret, Google just forgot to mention it, and "the microphone has never been on and is only activated when users specifically enable the option."
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Arizona realtor Andy Gregg's Nest doorbell/camera started talking to him: the voice on the other end identified itself as a Canadian "white hat" security researcher who'd broken into his camera by using a password that Gregg had used on multiple services, including some that had been breached. The hacker warned him that he was vulnerable and told him to tighten up his security before a bad guy got into his doorbell.
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When a man tried to enter his own house, his Nest doorbell got suspicious and snapped the doorlock shut. Nest's facial recognition feature confused the man, B.J. May, with the Batman T-shirt he was wearing, and apparently even Batman isn't allowed through the front door without the owner's consent.
Nest was just following orders, and May didn't hold a grudge. In a later tweet he said, "To answer some questions: Yes, the door was unlocked. My family was home, and my son was in/out the front door playing. I unlocked the door using my pin. I also could have used the phone app. It was no biggie, I just thought the face recognition fail was funny."
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A closed-door unveiling of the forthcoming Google Home smart speaker platform included the nakedly anticompetitive news that vendors whose products support Amazon's Echo will be blocked from integrating with Google's own, rival platform. Read the rest
A man in the Washington, DC area caught some housecleaners he'd hired through Handy.com photographing documents and rifling through his papers, presumably to commit identity theft.
Or, who knows, maybe they were also document archivists and wanted to be very very certain that along with the rest of the house, these papers were very very clean. Read the rest
Wired's Steven Levy on a $130 talking smoke detector.
Nest Protect also knows when a warning isn’t necessary. By analyzing sensor data (things like smoke, heat, and carbon monoxide levels), the system determines whether a situation is something to be concerned about. Eventually, having users specify where in the house the device will be installed could play into it too. If a unit is in the bathroom, its sensors could understand that the steam from a shower isn’t anything to warn people about. The devices have the capability now, but Nest has to wait on regulatory changes to activate them. And because Nest devices are connected to each other by Wi-Fi, the voice can also tell you where danger lies. If there’s a problem in the kids’ bedroom, every device in the house will tell you just that.
It's easy to approach this with a wary eye -- a thermostat is real chore to install and Nest's smarter replacement can save a homeowner serious money, whereas a smoke detector is $5 and you can just slap it on the ceiling. When you factor in false "burned toast" positives, the hassle of tracking down whichever one is chirping incessantly, and the fact that these guys are making nice versions of ugly-but-ubiquitous household appliances, maybe? I feel like their gameplan, ultimately, must be to fix the maddening, wallwart-carbuncled, powerstrip-knotted household power distribution situation. Read the rest