Nest denies smart smoke detectors spy on you

Detectors back on sale after recall

The idea of the smart home has become reality in recent years, with countless companies generating big investments to design the next wave of in-home technology. Nest, makers of devices including smart smoke detectors and thermostats, have been compared by some to Big Brother, an accusation the company vehemently refutes.

“They have nothing to do with alerting authorities at all,” a Nest spokesman wrote in an email statement this week, referring to the company’s Nest Protect, a smart smoke and carbon monoxide detector that went back on sale this month after a recall.

The California-based company calls its Protect device “the best smoke and carbon monoxide alarm out there,” as it can work in conjunction with Nest’s wi-fi connected thermostat to potentially fix dangerous gas leaks automatically, after alerting the consumer through alarms and email messages.

Detractors of the device have expressed concerns that the Protect could potentially spy on consumers by detecting fumes from drugs like marijuana and alerting authorities. Nest said that conjecture is simply false.

“Nest Protect delivers an added benefit to keep people safe, by allowing consumers to check in on the status of their homes even when they are away,” the company’s statement read. “They have nothing to do with the type of smoke that might cause a nuisance alarm.”


Technology blog Gizmodo reports that the Protect contains an array of sensors, “From heat and light sensors to motion sensors and ultrasonic wave sensors.” The site’s recent post compared the sensors to a Trojan Horse, warning that the device is capable of collecting data on many aspects of a consumer’s daily routine.

Nest recently released a report collecting anonymous data from the approximately 440,000 homes globally that have a Protect device installed. The study found that 0.15 percent of homes experienced a carbon monoxide event every month, with a median length of 77 minutes.

Its data suggests that at least 1 million homes across the U.S., UK and Canada are exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide every year.

The Nest Protect is back on sale now for $99 -- about $30 cheaper than before the May recall.

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