by Anne Curtis Saunders, Associate Staff

Last week, the ever-innovative Google acquired Nest Labs (Nest), a small Palo Alto operation, for a whopping $3.2 billion, roughly five percent of Google’s available cash.[1] Nest is a producer of “reinvented” home products, an example of which is its cutting-edge thermostat that “…learns your schedule, programs itself and can be controlled from your phone,” and may lead to reducing “your heating and cooling bills up to 20%.”[2] To me, someone who spends far too much time adjusting the thermostat several times a day to get the temperature just right, this thermostat sounds sensational and approaches necessity. Nevertheless, why does Google want it?

Danny Sullivan, leader of and journalist for Search Engine Land, a search engine news and information site,[3] says that “Google likes to know everything they can about us, so I suppose devices that are monitoring what’s going on in our homes is another excellent way for them to gather that information.”[4] He further asserts, “[t]he more [Google is] tied into our everyday life, the more they feel they can deliver products we’ll like and ads.”[5] And, it is the sharing of this information data that has consumers concerned.[6]

Tony Fadell, founder and CEO of Nest, assures consumers that immediately Google will be utilizing the current privacy policy of Nest, whereby the information gained from the products’ monitoring will only be used for the advancement of its own products and services.[7] Or, if changes do occur to the privacy policy, they will be transparent and opt-in.[8] But, what if these possible changes do occur, then what happens?

According to Fadell’s statements, it means that Google will let consumers know of the change in policy, but the change will still occur. And, what can be done about it legally? Unfortunately, not much. For when any privacy policy change takes place, consumers will have agreed to terms of service that refer to the privacy policy, agreeing with whatever the privacy policy may be, including any information data sharing authorized in the policy and any changes that may occur.

The moral of the story – under the present existing legal framework, consumers are offered little to no recourse for such changes to the privacy policy, so think twice before “accepting” terms of service and a possibly not-so-private privacy policy.

[1] Barry Ritholtz, Google Plays Smart Defense by Buying Nest, Bloomberg (Jan. 22, 2014, 7:46AM),


[2] Life with Nest Thermostat, Nest, (last visited Jan. 23, 2014).


[3] About Search Engine Land, Search Engine Land, (last visited Jan. 23, 2014).


[4] Claire Cain Miller, For Google, A Toehold Into Goods for a Home, The New York Times (Jan. 13, 2014),


[5] Id.


[6] Valentina Palladino, Nest CEO Promises Future Privacy Policy Changes Would Be “Opt-In,” The Verge (Jan. 20, 2014, 10:46AM),


[7] Privacy Statement, Nest, (last visited Jan. 23, 2014).


[8] Valentina Palladina, supra note 6.