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Google removes option to disable Nest cams’ status light

It's more of a “post-purchase middle finger” to customers than a privacy plus, say some outraged users who use the cams to catch crooks.

No more stashing your Nest security cameras in the bushes to catch burglars unaware: Google informed users on Wednesday that it’s removing the option to turn off the status light that indicates when your Nest camera is recording.

You can still dim the light that shows when Google’s Nest, Dropcam, and Nest Hello cameras are on and sending video and audio to Nest, Google said, but you can’t make it go away on new cameras. If the camera is on, it’s going to tell people that it’s on – with its green status light in Nest and Nest Home and the blue status light in Dropcam – in furtherance of Google’s newest commitment to privacy.

Google introduced its new privacy commitment at its I/O 2019 developers conference in May, in order to explain how its connected home devices and services work.

The setting that enabled users to turn off the status light is being removed on all new cameras. When the cameras’ live video is streamed from the Nest app, the status light will blink. The update will be done over-the-air for all Nest cams: Google’s update notice said that the company was rolling out the changes as of Wednesday, 14 August 2019.

An “absurd” update

The change is a plus for the privacy-aware: say, people who are wary of their Airbnb hosts secretly filming them in the shower or bedroom.

On the other end of the spectrum, it’s an outrage to some users who say they’ve spent big bucks on cameras that can stay hidden. One comment on Google’s update notice called it “an absurd update and an invasion of my rights as a consumer” – more of a “post-purchase middle finger” to customers than a privacy plus. More from that incensed user:

Privacy laws do not exist on private property such as my home, where I get to dictate which light remains on. We have spent thousands on 8+ cameras, Nest Guard and Nest Sense products, and spend $40/month on Nest Aware. For me – as a consumer – to have my rights violated without an option to keep the status lights off is a major move backwards.

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.

A simple, sticky workaround

That comment above was upvoted by 129 others. One of the replies suggested that the user would be turning to another technology that we often reference when talking about webcams that can be hijacked; one that Facebook kingpin Mark Zuckerberg himself has seen fit to deploy, though in this case, the technology will be applied to the status light and not the lens.

To wit:

Now I have to cover it with a piece of electrical tape.


This clearly highlights that disabling the status lights (or preventing them illuminating, whatever) is and was previously possible from a programmatic perspective by the vendor(s). We knew it anyway, but they’ve put their foot in their mouth now :)


The light showing they’re being recorded is more of a deterrent than a secret hidden camera, no? Most likely they’ll head to the neighbor’s house if they see a camera at yours.


You are right. So I’m going to expand on that idea, rather than critique you.

Cameras don’t prevent crime, they record it. A waste of money, since police don’t care about theft or property damage. Is anyone going to sue that meth addict for stealing a tv, if he’s caught? No, at best they go to jail for a month. Cameras may cause police to increase patrol in that area. And the taxes go up to pay for it all. So cameras cost to buy, and cost more taxes!

But blinking lights are great at preventing crime. The blinking light is a great investment. Everyone should have blinking lights, because it deters criminals.

Even better are real lights. Well-lit properties are most protected. And easier for patrol to see a criminal, so criminals avoid well-lit areas.

So get rid of cameras. Buy more lights. Blinking lights are good. Best is yard lighting. Increase illumination, not surveillance!


Until the camera, for whatever reason, isn’t on/recording. Maybe the internet is down, maybe the power is out. Now the blinking light is an advertisement that the camera is offline.

There isn’t a security expert in the world that would tell you to advertise when the camera is working vs not working.


This sounds like a retaliatory move on googles part. If they cant listen to your private conversations, then thieves should be able to have led awareness of cameras. WHY NOT JUST MAKE THE ENTIRE THING GLOW.


Just caught and arrested a person. Steeling tire off my trailer, we are worried about his rights. Have 18 nest cameras, aware,hub, thermo, and what I the buyer would like is a better monitoring app so I can see more cameras, more locations and be able to modify my view …….seems like they don’t know their customers. Tape here we go.


It’s irrational to imagine any level of privacy once you install a Google surveillance system in your home. Google is knocking itself out to get its hands on your data, and now people are paying lots of money for the privilege of allowing them near total access to their lives. There should be no expectation that your private conversations and behavior inside and outside your home is not going to appear on the internet (for the right price).

“Your honor, this ocelot I installed in my home ate all my pet chickens…”
“Get out of my courtroom, you buffoon!”


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