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Google Reveals Plans to Monitor Our Moods, Our Movements, and Our Children's Behavior at Home

A man touches a Google Home at the Google Home Sundance dinner on January 20, 2017 in Park City, Utah.  (Photo by Todd Williamson/Getty Images for Google Home)

Patents recently issued to Google provide a window into their development activities. While it’s no guarantee of a future product, it is a sure indication of what’s of interest to them. What we’ve given up in privacy to Google, Facebook, and others thus far is minuscule compared to what is coming if these companies get their way.

These patents tell us that Google is developing smart-home products that are capable of eavesdropping on us throughout our home in order to learn more about us and better target us with advertising. It goes much further than the current Google Home speaker that’s promoted to answer our questions and provide useful information, and the Google-owned Nest thermostat that measures environmental conditions in our home. What the patents describe are sensors and cameras mounted in every room to follow us and analyze what we’re doing throughout our home.

They describe how the cameras can even recognize the image of a movie star’s image on a resident’s t-shirt, connect it to the person’s browsing history, and send the person an ad for a new movie the star is in.

One patent, No. 10,114,351, reads, “According to embodiments of this disclosure, a smart-home environment may be provided with smart-device environment policies that use smart-devices to monitor activities within a smart-device environment, report on these activities, and/or provide smart-device control based upon these activities.”

So clearly they want to monitor us and report back what we are doing.

It goes on to describe an example in the usual patent legalese. But it’s worth providing here the exact description for you to see, in particular, the last sentence:

By way of example, the high-power processor 20 and the low-power processor 22 may detect when a location (e.g., a house or room) is occupied (i.e., includes a presence of a human), up to and including whether it is occupied by a specific person or is occupied by a specific number of people (e.g., relative to one or more thresholds). In one embodiment, this detection can occur, e.g., by analyzing microphone signals, detecting user movements (e.g., in front of a device), detecting openings and closings of doors or garage doors, detecting wireless signals, detecting an internet protocol (IP) address of a received signal, detecting operation of one or more devices within a time window, or the like. Moreover, the high-power processor 20 and the low-power processor 22 may include image recognition technology to identify particular occupants or objects.

In other words, the goal is to track us throughout the home — observing who is in each room, where we are moving, and what we are doing.

What’s of note is the patent that was awarded to one of Google’s star teams, associated with the development of the Nest thermostat — a breakthrough product with a microphone.