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Behavior-tracking Nest won't share your info with Google, CEO says 

Jan. 20, 2014 at 2:50 PM ET

The Nest thermostat can learn your schedule, but won't share those very personal details with its new parent company Google unless you give it the OK, the company announced.
Nest
The Nest thermostat can learn your schedule, but won't share those very personal details with its new parent company Google unless you give it the OK, the company announced.

Privacy buffs sounded the alarm when Google bought smart-thermostat maker Nest for $3.2 billion last week. The app-connected appliance tracks schedules to regulate home temperature, but Nest’s CEO swears his company won’t simply hand over users’ data to its new overlords.

Nest isn’t planning any forthcoming changes to its privacy policy, and any future modifications will be “transparent” and “opt-in,” said CEO Tony Fadell at the DLD Conference in Munich on Monday.

Nest is best known for its “Learning Thermostat,” which figures out users’ daily habits. For example, the device “learns” not to blast cool air through the house on a hot summer’s day during the hours everyone is at work.

Data on those types of personal habits feels a bit ... personal. So, since the day Google and Nest announced the acquisition, Nest has worked hard to assuage customers’ concerns. The company posted a Q&A-style explanation on January 15 dedicated to the post-Google Nest, including an assurance that “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.”

Fadell repeated that message at Monday’s conference, saying that the data Nest collects “is all about our products and improving them.” Panel moderator Laurie Segall of CNNMoney asked Fadell if users could expect, for example, ads for sweaters if they tend to crank up the heat. Fadell denied that that type of integration is in the works, but he stopped short of promising it would never happen.

Despite Fadell’s comments, the truth is that Google shelled out $3.2 billion for Nest, in a move that appeared aimed at tapping into the vast data network of smart appliances — the so-called "Internet of Things." It seems unlikely that Google would allow Nest simply to function as an entirely separate part of the company.

Perhaps, for example, Google would tap anonymized data that can’t be traced back to a specific user. Maybe Nest users who opt into that type of data-collection would be given a discount.

In Nest’s own Q&A post, the company hinted at a more integrated future with Google.

“Will Nest and Google products work with each other?” the blog post read. “Nest’s product line obviously caught the attention of Google and I’m betting that there’s a lot of cool stuff we could do together, but nothing to share today.”

What, exactly, that “cool stuff” looks like remains to be seen.

Julianne Pepitone is a senior technology writer for NBC News Digital. Previously she was a staff writer at CNNMoney, where she covered large tech companies including Apple and Google, as well as the intersection of tech and media. Follow Julianne on Twitter at @julpepitone or email her at julianne.pepitone@nbcuni.com.

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