The current capabilities of technology are truly amazing. Creations ranging from driverless cars to artificial intelligence (AI) home assistants like “Alexa” were mere visions 20 years ago. The smarter and more prevalent technology is becoming, however, the more privacy becomes an issue. When it comes to these technologies in our homes, how much is too much?
The Nest Cam IQ is one of these high-tech devices that has spurred controversy. Created by Nest Labs, the Nest Cam IQ is a camera that utilizes facial recognition technology, much like Facebook does to identify users in photos. Similarly, Nest Cam IQ's facial recognition feature allows home owners to tag people that frequent their houses and receive notifications about who comes and goes.
For example, with this feature, the camera would recognize a friend that a child brings home and alert the owner of the friend's presence in their house. Nest Labs and Google are owned by the same parent company Alphabet Inc., thus allowing Nest Labs to take advantage of Google’s expertise around AI.
This facial recognition feature has many potential future uses, according to a recent article the Wisconsin State Journal. Grandparents coming to visit? Nest Cam IQ will recognize their faces and automatically adjust the thermostat to a suitable temperature. Kids home alone? The camera will alert parents if they begin to do something outside the list of approved activities.
But despite these potentially positive uses, the Nest Cam IQ raises some concerns as well. Although the camera is already on the market, the Nest Cam costs a substantial amount, $300, and more for video storage – another $10 subscription plan per month for 10-day video storage or $30 per month for 30-day video storage. Another of the device's flaws is that it would not notify owners of an intruder, since the camera only recognizes those tagged by owners through the Nest app.
The biggest problem the Nest Cam IQ creates, however, is in regards to privacy. Because the Nest Cam IQ has the capability to store videos and pictures, these files could be vulnerable to hackers. Further, as Nest Lab’s engineers develop more sophisticated software, Nest Cam’s advanced zooming capabilities could begin to focus mistakenly on strangers’ faces and photograph them. In fact, Nest Labs is not offering facial recognition technology in Illinois, where state law mandates that the collection of an individual’s biometric information without given consent is illegal.
Fiona Lynch, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, admits that the current prototype of Nest Cam IQ poses no serious threats as the camera only recognizes familiar faces. She cautions, however, that this could become a problem.
For now, the Nest Cam IQ is a superior camera with many functions. Hopefully, its software engineers can heed these potential issues and carefully navigate looming slippery slopes.
[Sources: madison.com; Wisconsin State Journal]