Nest is the most high-profile player in smart home and connected security, and its status as a Google subsidiary has subjected it to special scrutiny. Google talked about its “customer privacy commitment” at I/O 2019 when it unveiled the new Google Nest branding. The company just made good on one of the promises it made at I/O — it’s removing the option to disable camera status LEDs. Nest customers have responded with almost universal anger to the change.
One of the principles outlined in Google’s privacy commitment stressed that the company would ensure there was a visual indicator when your Nest camera was on and streaming video to Google. According to the email sent out to users, Google is doing that by making the status lights on most Nest cameras always-on. So, you’ll always know if one of these devices is actively streaming. So, that’s good, right? Not so fast — it turns out a lot of people liked being able to disable those lights.
Nest says that the Nest Cam and Nest Hello video doorbell will get a silent OTA update soon that removes the status light feature. The small green LED will be on at all times while the camera is active, and it will flash when someone is watching the stream live. Instead of disabling the light, Nest will only support dimming it slightly.
This does make sure you and everyone around you are aware of what the camera is doing. However, that’s not a feature everyone wants. Many Nest camera owners prefer the devices to draw as little attention as possible. For example, the doorbell camera flashing could tell an unwanted visitor that you’re looking at them and not answering the door. Pretty awkward. It could also make the cameras easier to spot for an observant thief, who could then avoid or damage the cameras.
The status light is indeed a valuable tool if you’re worried about someone hacking your cameras or you just don’t trust Google. Although, putting a Google camera in your house seems like a bad idea if you’re that person. For everyone else, the status light at best unimportant and at worst a nuisance. Forcing it on everyone could be missing the point. The outrage on Google’s community forums is rampant, but there’s no indication the company will reverse its decision.