Is Google Becoming “Big Brother”?

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Happy Friday friends! I guess some might say the better question is has Google become the Big Brother?

Unless you’ve been living under a digital rock the past few days, you know that Google bought Nest, the maker of smart thermostats and smoke detectors for a cool $3.2 billion. Until I started seeing headlines about the acquisition I had absolutely no clue who Nest was or why Google would want to buy them.

I know this really has nothing to do with personal finance, on one level, but is interesting to look at from my advertising perspective. 🙂 That said, I will get out of the way that I’m not really a conspiracy theorist, or anything like that, but I do believe it poses some interesting questions that should be pondered – especially in today’s age of NSA spying and the like.

How Does Google Benefit From Buying a Thermostat Company?

I’ve discussed how Google can benefit from different actions they take some time ago when I discussed the introduction of the Google Chromecast. While I do believe that the Chromecast does offer some valuable possibilities in terms of more options in the war against cable television, it does also offer Google valuable information they can use to market to us.

What does the purchase of Nest offer Google – more information, plain and simple. These “nests” as they’re called are built to get to know us. They do this by determining how we act and then changing the temperature in our homes. While it may sound harmless, it is only the tip of the iceberg of what Google could do with such technology.

According to Marcus Wohlsen in Wired Magazine what Google is angling for is this: “As the devices talk to each other, by building an aggregate picture of human behavior, they anticipate what we want before even we know.”

Freaky, huh? I read that quote, and others like it, I immediately start remembering scenes from Back to the Future II (I know I’m dating myself here) where all their devices spoke to each other and they could cook dinner in less than three seconds thanks to some sort of fusion technology.

Ultimately, again, it’s the information Google can get on us which is beneficial to them. They get it from our internet searching, from many of our phones, to many other things. That information is incredibly valuable to have on a variety of levels. That information may not necessarily be meant to be used in a sinister or “evil” fashion, but it very well can be used to benefit their already fat bottom line.

Is The Convenience Worth it?

You could say that I’m being a conspiracy nut, though I simply believe this is fodder for great conversation. 🙂 The argument that could be given to us behind Google  buying Nest is bringing us more convenience.

Does the thought of some device knowing when I’d like my house heated/cooled to a certain level sound appealing? Sure it does. But, it would be naïve to believe it begins and ends there. I don’t believe that Google grasps yet what they have the capability for with growing information, beyond marketing capabilities, but it is big.

The kicker in all of this is that we’re actually paying them to collect these store houses of information on us through purchasing phones, using their search functionality and things like the Chromecast. At least, that’s what some believe. I know I’m certainly guilty of paying them to do it and many of us are. That said, when asked what this would mean if it was the government collecting this information on us I liked the response given by Jeff Macke of Yahoo Finance “I don’t know what they do with that information. But if the government wanted to know all that, I would be really paranoid.”

So, again, not really applicable on many levels to personal finance, but a very interesting question (in my opinion at least 😉 ) as to whether or not Google is or becoming “Big Brother” and what that means for us as we live our lives.

As many of you know, Mrs. Frugal Rules and I will be in Vegas next week for a much anticipated vacation! I’ve got the week filled with some awesome guest posts and our regular cast of staff writers for you to enjoy. Oh, and for those who’ve asked, I’ve decided not to get a tattoo next week – sorry Mrs. Frugal Rules. 😉

I also thought I’d share a little link love as it has been quite some time since I did that and would like to share some of the blog posts I’ve enjoyed over the past few weeks.

Link Love

Traditional vs. Roth IRA: Some Unconventional Wisdom on Which is Better for Younger Investors on Mom And Dad Money

15 Ways to Improve Your Finances in the New Year – Part 1 on Young Adult Money

When Free Isn’t Worth it on The Broke and Beautiful Life

What Does it Mean to “Roll Over” Your 401(k)? on The Simple Money Blog

New Year – Time for a Financial Tune Up on Financially Blonde


What do you think? Has Google become “Big Brother”? Would you buy a thermostat that got to “know” you for the sake of convenience? Do you have anything fun planned for the weekend?


Photo courtesy of: Robert Scoble

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I'm the founder of Frugal Rules, a Dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry. I'm passionate about helping people learn from my mistakes so that they can enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. I'm also a freelance writer, and regularly contribute to GoBankingRates, Investopedia, Lending Tree and more.


  • Funny, I just made that exact comment to A & C, about Google being too big brotherish with this acquisition. I already have a hard enough time with stuff that I’ve looked up on Amazon showing up in AdSense ads on sites that I later visit – there’ll be no adding Nest to the picture.

    • John says:

      It does seem a bit odd for them to make this acquisition, but when looked at it makes total sense in my opinion. I know, it can be a bit strange at times to look up something and then have it plastered all over AdSense.

  • It’s simply going to be harder and harder to guard your privacy in the years to come as technology continues to advance. That being said…watch your back in Vegas. You never know who may be watching. Enjoy your trip!

  • Thanks for the mention! I have nothing in particular planned for this weekend, which is just fine. I suppose I always have the blog to-do list as well as my tax to-do list that I’ve been plugging away at. As far as Google, I’m more worried about the government hacking them and stealing information than I am about Google having the information. I’m not gonna lie, I’m obsessed with the idea of having a “smart house” but it’s FAR too low a priority to sink the thousands into it that it would require.

    • John says:

      I think that is a somewhat valid concern, given the NSA funny business we’ve seen happen. I’ve read that they’re very concerned of that, meaning Google, and I can understand why. I fear what our kids would do with a “smart house”, lol.

  • Matt Becker says:

    Thanks for the shout out John. I have to say that I tend not to worry too much about this kind of thing. The way I look at it, and maybe this is naive, is that there have been advances like this throughout history and this is just the next in line. Privacy was much different in 1900 than it was in 1950, and now it’s even more different today. Sure, there’s the potential for the point of no return where it really starts harming us in meaningful ways, but I don’t personally find it worth my time to worry too much about it. Plus, I use Google for just about everything so I’m sure there’s at least a little bit of denial going on.

    • John says:

      Not a problem Matt. I’m not a big worrier either, but the point is that we’re living in a new world. Yes, things were much different in 1900 vs 1950 vs now, but in many reasons that’s comparing apples to oranges in my opinion. As for the denial, lol, that was my exact point…we don’t see it, or don’t care, because we (myself included) use them for just about everything. It’s a very interesting time to live in at the very least.

  • I was perplexed by this acquisition as well, but with all the cash Google has, I think we will unfortunately continue to see more world domination in the future. 🙂 Have a blast in Vegas! Remember to know when to hold em and know when to fold em. And thank you SO much for the shout out!!!

    • John says:

      That’s exactly what some of the analysts I’ve read mentioned – they have so much cash that they don’t know what to do with it. Google really has no need for a thermostat company, but it’s the tech they’re after and time will tell how we see it implemented. Thanks Shannon! We’re not big gamblers, just enough to call it entertainment. 🙂

  • I am so boring I guess I just don’t care if they know everything about me. They would find me always turning the heat down and Jim always turning it up, so I guess they could market us either way! Have a great weekend.

  • I’d have to say that it is worrisome but to be completely off the grid is a scary proposition for me! haha Have fun in Vegas! Everyone has fun until your waiting for your flight home and all you can hear are those slot machines.

  • I certainly get the acquisition. The Nest works with Android and Apple and is a new way to automate your home. Google tried this unsuccessfully a few years ago and I think this is there way to get a company that already has an in. I won’t be getting one, since the A/C repair guys that I talk to tell me that they love when people install these. The reason being is that all of the “learning” tends to burn out the motors on units because of the off and on.

    • John says:

      After reading about it I totally agree Grayson. I think ultimately they want that tech and is just easier for them to spend the money to get it. I imagine the A/C companies love it, that doesn’t surprise me at all.

  • Have a fantastic trip to Vegas. Can’t wait to read all about it! My plan for the weekend involves listing everything I can find in my home (that I don’t NEED) on ebay so I can sell it and pay for a trip to Europe to see my boyfriend 🙂 Thanks for the mention!

    • John says:

      Thanks! I’ve got a few posts planned for it already and I’m sure I’ll come out with a few other post ideas. Good luck on the Ebay sales – where in Europe are you wanting to go?

  • Whenever it comes to technology and all its cool features, you add something kind of shady or bad with it. Whether it’s something that makes you life easier, but takes up too many precious resources from the earth, or kind of spies on us. I think that’s unfortunately a trend that doesn’t seem to be going away. While I’m not too worried about it, it does make me raise my eyebrows a bit. Have fun in Vegas!

    • John says:

      Completely agreed Tonya – there is a give and take I believe. I’m not worried either, though I’m with you on the raising of the eyebrows.

  • Have a great trip to Las Vegas and birthday, John! I was initially a bit surprised by the acquisition because at first blush, it seems odd. But when you dig further, it makes more sense. I’m not a huge conspiracy theorist either but Google can be a little scary sometimes. Have fun soaking up the sun next week!

    • John says:

      Thanks Shannon! I thought the same thing, but it really makes sense as I believe they’re after the tech that Nest can bring to the table.

  • Yeah, I’m far more concerned about Google and other corporate spying than I am about the NSA. Google’s got no grounds for complaining.

    • John says:

      I heard that Obama said today that he wants the “private” info to be kept with the companies and the NSA not to have access to it. I don’t know which I’d rather have…another Target or the NSA. 😉

  • The bottom-line for me is to vote with your money. If you don’t like a company collecting information on you then don’t use their product or services. It is only going to get worse moving forward and I think consumers will make the choice for companies on whether or not it is an acceptable practice. Have a great trip to Vegas, don’t do anything to crazy!

    • John says:

      Great point Kyle! I do agree it’ll likely only get more prevalent in the future and it’s on us to decide whether or not that is what we want.

      Thanks! Nothing too crazy planned. 😉

  • You know, to an extent, I could say Google has become big brother. However, they’ve done it by making life easier for the most part. I’m not the biggest fan of Google, but you’ve got to give them kudos for what they’ve accomplished. As far as the link love, thanks! I’ll go check ’em out!

    • John says:

      I think that’s the pre-text they may operate under though I believe a lot of it is to market to us. Or, at least, that’s what the marketer in me believes. 🙂

  • I understand Google’s reasoning behind the acquisition but man I don’t like it. They already know more about me than I probably know. I’d definitely be freaking out if the government was doing the same monitoring as Google is, but what’s to stop Google from selling their data to the government? Not that I do anything that needs monitoring, but still a little bit of privacy would be nice. Between Google’s data collection and Cisco’s plans for the “Internet of Everything” I don’t think we’re that far off from essentially having no privacy.

    • John says:

      That’s a great point JC! My wife and I were just talking about that the other night and I don’t think we’re far off from that at all. I heard that Obama said today that he wants companies to keep the information, but God only knows if that’ll happen and if so what that means.

  • Brick By Brick Investing | Marvin says:

    That’s really scary when you think about especially after as you pointed out the scanda with the NSA

    • John says:

      I think it can be Marvin. I’m not an alarmist by any means, but it should cause many of us to stop and think about the potential ramifications.

  • I wouldn’t really care if Google knew that we like to live at 72 F when we are home.

    • John says:

      I think you’re missing the point Bryce. You have to look below the surface of what they can actually do with the tech. It’s a privacy issue and one that we need to be informed about.

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