June 21, 2018

What Google’s Acquisition of Nest Labs Really Means

nestToday’s news of Google acquiring Nest Labs, which produces one of the more expensive but also most advanced thermostats for the home, has been all over the place. As you might imagine when Google buys anyone, there has been a lot of speculation about what it might mean.

I have a variety of opinions on the topic, but one seems inescapable. Google already knows so much about us. Having lured us into sharing our deepest secrets through free services like Google Search, GMail, Drive (formerly Google Docs), and many others, they inevitably want more.

This is because their business is advertising. The more they now about us — and I mean really know — the better they can target the ads that not only pay the bills but has allowed them to drop billions on a company that may not be worth it based on the products they produce alone.

Tweets like this one were not only inevitable but also potentially darkly prophetic:


Dan Cohen of DPLA insinuated with a tweet today (admittedly quite playfully) that Google could refuse to raise the temperature in your house until you joined Google+. I don’t think anyone thinks (including Dan) that such a thing would happen, but the point has still been made. The more Google controls the more options they have for further control.

If Google’s business was focused somewhere other than increasing knowledge of our every want, desire, habit, or ebmarrassing personal peccadillo, I might be less concerned. But it isn’t. The more they know about us the better they are at making the money that has made Google what it is today. We can debate what that is all day, but while we are debating they are acquiring ever more knowledge and power.

And as of today they are in our very living rooms.

Roy Tennant About Roy Tennant

Roy Tennant is a Senior Program Officer for OCLC Research. He is the owner of the Web4Lib and XML4Lib electronic discussions, and the creator and editor of Current Cites, a current awareness newsletter published every month since 1990. His books include "Technology in Libraries: Essays in Honor of Anne Grodzins Lipow" (2008), "Managing the Digital Library" (2004), "XML in Libraries" (2002), "Practical HTML: A Self-Paced Tutorial" (1996), and "Crossing the Internet Threshold: An Instructional Handbook" (1993). Roy wrote a monthly column on digital libraries for Library Journal for a decade and has written numerous articles in other professional journals. In 2003, he received the American Library Association's LITA/Library Hi Tech Award for Excellence in Communication for Continuing Education. Follow him on Twitter @rtennant.


  1. I am sitting about eight feet away from my Nest, holding very still so the Googles can’t track my movements. Tomorrow I’m going to work on personal cloaking devices that will enable us to move about without letting Google know we’re home!