Nest cam users are irate over a recent e-mail from Google explaining that they’ll no longer be cable to turn off the LED status light on their cameras. This extends beyond Nest Cam to Dropcam and Nest Hello.
The controversial move is being done in the name of privacy according to Google. Status lights will remain on when recording and will blink when live footage is being watched by a user. Users can dim the light in the settings, but not completely turn it off. Google posted this on their Nest forums.
As part of our commitment to privacy, we explained that you would always see a clear visual indicator when your Nest cameras are on and sending video and audio to Google. Starting today, we’re rolling out the following changes that no longer allow you to turn off the visual indicators on Nest Cam, Dropcam and Nest Hello:
- In Settings for all Nest Cameras and Nest Hello, now you can dim the light status. When the camera is on, the status light will glow green, the light’s low enough to still be used in any room, even for Nest Cam IQs used in a nursery.
- For Dropcam, when the camera is on, the status light will glow blue.
- On Nest Cam, Dropcam, and Nest Hello, the status light will blink when the camera is live video is streamed from the Nest app.
We’re also changing how your cameras react when a Nest Secure alarm or Nest Protect detects smoke or carbon monoxide. Starting today, you will need to select each of your cameras to start recording during a smoke, carbon monoxide, or security event, even if this feature was previously enabled.
A large contingent of Nest users took to online forums and social media to voice their displeasure. The primary argument is that thieves would now be able to see where the cameras are and when they are being recorded. Many users demanded refunds stating they purchased the camera with the knowledge that the light would not be on.
While people assumed Google have made a terrible mistake, their intentions are a bit more admirable than they seem. Privacy experts have long advocated for features like this so that people are not unwittingly recorded.
Cases of people recorded in dressing rooms, bathrooms, and bedrooms without their knowledge have become commonplace over the years. AirBNB customers have been a constant target as well.
From a selfish perspective, Google may be trying to avoid some liability if their products are used for nefarious purposes. Especially since their cloud servers host the video being recorded.
To counter that, users argue that strangers have no reasonable expectation of privacy on their property. That they are under no obligation to inform you of a nanny cam in the living room or one to monitor the back porch.
Existing Google Nest users may be out of luck trying to fight this legally. The EULA spells out that Google can make these changes to their software whenever they want.
How Can I Turn the Light Off on My Google Nest Cam?
For those hell bent on defying the update, the crude, yet simple solution is to place some electrical tape over the light. There are currently no software workarounds at the moment.
Which brings up an important question. If this is about stymieing bad eggs who use hidden cameras to spy on people in vulnerable positions, why wouldn’t they use the tape solution? Is this truly a solution or just a way for Google to pass the buck on liability?
In any case, users don’t like having their purchased devices changed without their permission. It’ll be interesting to see if Google bites the bullet and backtracks on this decision. However other popular options like the Amazon Cloud Cam also lack a function to turn off the status lights. So perhaps this is simply the new norm.