Google has notified existing Nest camera, Nest Hello doorbell and Dropcam owners that they can no longer disable their devices’ status light. The company told customers the update in an email, according to 9toGoogle, which also found Google Support discussions on the topic by displeased customers. It was previously possible to switch off those security devices’ status lights to prevent them from being spotted in a dark room, keeping them hidden from, say, home invaders.
However, as the publication notes, Google previously promised a “clear visual indicator when… Nest cameras are on and sending video and audio to Nest” as part of its commitment to privacy. (Google published its privacy promise a month before a Wirecutter report revealed that a user was “still able to access images from [their] old camera” after selling it.) The update could help prevent unscrupulous individuals from using Nest products to secretly film guests, for instance, or for any other underhanded purpose.
The letter reads (courtesy of Android Central):
“Recently, we shared our commitment to privacy to outline how our products work in your home. As part of that commitment, we explained that you will always see a clear visual indicator when your Nest cameras are on and sending video and audio to Nest.
So we’re changing how the status lights function on Nest cameras, Dropcam, and Nest Hello. You will be able to dim the light on your camera, but it will always be on when the camera is on. We’re doing this to make sure you, and those around your camera, are aware when the camera is on and recording.
Starting today, we’re rolling out the following changes: – In Settings for all Nest cameras and Nest Hello, the ability to turn off the status light will be removed. Instead, you’ll be able to dim the status light. When the camera is on, the status light will glow green. – For Dropcam, the setting to turn off the status light will be removed. 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’s live video is streamed from the Nest app. The setting to turn this off will be removed.”
Owners using the devices for legitimate security purposes are understandably upset, especially since the changes will be applied retroactively. It sounds like they’ll at least be able to dim the status lights, but they’ll have to rely on good ole tape if they want to block them out completely.