A lot of people who purchase a Google nest learning thermostat worry about whether it has a camera. Is that thermostat on the wall that’s connected to your Wi-Fi control in your HVAC system also potentially watching you in your home?
If this is a concern for you, you can rest easier. The Nest Learning Thermostat does not have a camera in it. The thermostat does have sensors that can detect environmental conditions in your home. A camera is not one of these, however.
This was independently confirmed by the Mozilla Foundation, one of the world’s top digital privacy research foundations. Even though the thermostat does not have a camera, Mozilla still says that it’s able to snoop on you in different ways. For example, Google can use the thermostat to tell about when you’re in your home or when you’re out and about. The thermostat does include sensors that determine occupancy.
Why do people think it has a camera?
Despite assurances to the contrary, many Nest users still believe that the device has a camera. Why is that?
The most likely reason is that the device does have a small circular sensor located towards the top of its face. The sensor is sometimes visible to users when the thermostat is eliminated in bright sunlight. It kind of looks like the lens of a camera.
You can see it in this photo, just above and to the left of the number 71. See that little dot?
Again however it’s not a camera. The sensor here is most likely used to determine when the thermostat is being illuminated by sunlight. This allows the Nest thermostat to avoid adjusting your home’s HVAC system to a lower temperature unnecessarily. It knows if it’s being bathed in light and that’s artificially warming it up, and can avoid changing the temperature in your whole house just because there’s some light falling on the thermostat itself.
If you see this little dot at the top of your thermostat, rest assured that it’s not a camera.
Are there other ways Nest can monitor me with cameras?
Another source of confusion may be the fact that certain other Nest products do monitor your home with cameras. Google makes a wide array of Nest security cameras for use both inside and outside the home. These devices do include cameras; in this case, that’s the whole point of the device.
According to Mozilla, Google also asks for permission to access your camera when using the Nest app on your phone. Again, this is likely because the app is used to control both Google’s Nest cameras and other devices like the Nest thermostat or the Nest Protect smoke detector. Still, that can be confusing for people who just use the thermostat. They may wonder why Google needs access to their phone’s camera for a device that doesn’t have a camera in it itself.
The bottom line
The bottom line is that, despite appearances, the Google Nest Learning Thermostat does not have a camera in it.
Again, it can monitor you in your home in different ways, so any privacy concerns you may have about the device are not necessarily totally unfounded. The thermostat is not watching you in your home, however, so if that’s a concern for you, you can rest easy.