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The status light on the Nest camera is now compulsory

Google has irked many of its Nest Camera owners by making the previously optional status light compulsory.

In an email sent out to owners of the Nest camera, Nest Hello doorbell and Dropcam, seen by 9to5Google, the company explained that customers would no longer be able to disable the device’s status light.

In the email, Google explains that the change comes thanks to the company’s “commitment to privacy” and recent promise that “you will always see a clear visual indicator when your Nest cameras are on and sending video and audio to Nest.”

In other words, it’s about making sure that people are aware they’re being filmed, to prevent underhand usage. “You will be able to dim the light on your camera, but it will always be on when the camera is on,” the email continued. “We’re doing this to make sure you, and those around your camera, are aware when the camera is on and recording.”

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It’s pretty clear why Google wants to do this, given the frequent stories about Airbnb owners keeping secret cameras in their properties. Doubly so when Google Nest has been on the wrong side of privacy stories lately, firstly with the undocumented microphone in Nest Secure, and then with a now-fixed bug that meant former owners could still spy on pre-owned units

But that doesn’t mean it’s a change that’s welcomed by legitimate users. Some people just don’t want a distracting light on in their house at all times, as this growing thread on the Google Nest support page shows.    

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Google is directly attempting to change the way the product I have bought – and how it was advertised at the time – functions,” the original poster writes. “The camera’s ability to turn off its status light was a feature which Google is now retroactively removing.

“The whole point of exterior cameras is to remain hidden and out of sight of potential burglars.  But yes, let’s forcibly keep the light on so that everyone can see and avoid being recorded. God forbid that some criminal’s privacy rights are violated.

“This isn’t about privacy, this is a flat-out post-purchase middle finger to us – your customers.”

At the time of writing, 26 supporting comments are underneath – and it’s only been up for six hours. It could be a long day for people on the Nest support desk. 

Is Google right to put privacy first, or should customers be allowed to decide how they use the product they’ve paid for? Let us know what you think on Twitter: @TrustedReviews.

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