The Nest Cam home-monitoring device from Nest Labs of Google has been shown to remain running even after users have turned the device off. While the device might appear to be off, it is actually still recording. In fact, the only real difference between the on and off modes is that the LED light isn’t displayed. This has caused concern from users who believe that this could lead to various privacy and surveillance issues.
This discovery was made when researchers realized that the device was using almost just as much electricity in its off mode as in its on mode. Typically, a device would use a very small fraction of the amount of electricity in its off mode. A further analysis showed that the camera was still noting movement, sound and other activity. The very slight electricity savings are caused by the LED shutting off.
Spokesperson of Nest Labs Zoe Cuccias wrote in an email, “When Nest Cam is turned off from the user interface, it does not fully power down, as we expect the camera to be turned on again at any point in time. With that said, when Nest Cam is turned off, it completely stops transmitting video to the cloud, meaning it no longer observes its surroundings.”
Cuccias also explained that the Nest Cam utilizes 128-bit SSL encryption, a unique 2048-bit RSA key and Perfect Forward Secrecy, which prevents the device from being vulnerable to hackers.
“This ensures that videos are not accessible, even over open WiFi networks. That said, customers can always see the status of their camera through the Nest app,” wrote Cuccias.
However, while the Nest Cam might not be transmitting video to the Google Cloud in off mode, the power consumption patterns lead one to believe otherwise. Many experts believe that the device is still indeed observing its surroundings, whether or not it is actually capturing video.
Making matters more concerning is that there is actually a mode within the camera to continue streaming audio and video while turning off the status light. Many speculate that this is exactly the same as setting the camera into off mode. While powering down the device may cease the streaming, it is still observing and watching.
Some technology experts have said that the Nest Cam needs to remain vigilant even in off mode because it allows for a quick startup time. This “medium power state” is made for mere convenience. But in the case of a house-monitoring webcam, it’s very concerning. Many consumers of home monitoring devices have started asking the manufacturers whether or not the device is always running, citing concerns of privacy.
And with Google also facing privacy concerns on the internet, perhaps it’s just to best stay away from this one. Google could very well be watching anyone who bothers to use this questionable device.