Google Eyes Dropcam, Company That Thinks Monetizing User Data is "Tricking the User"

May 27 2014, 6:15pm CDT | by

If Google is really going to buy Dropcam, the video camera startup might have to readjust some of its company values.

The Information reported Tuesday that Google is considering buying Dropcam, which makes $150 cameras that stream video to a computer or phone.

But there might be one ideological hurdle: Dropcam co-founder and CEO Greg Duffy doesn’t believe in Google’s main business model of offering free services in order to gather and monetize user data.

“I think if your business model is not straightforward, it veers into potentially being unethical, if you look at things that are quote-unquote ‘free,’” he told Xconomy a year ago. “None of the people who work here want to work on something that works like that.”

Dropcam employees view using user data to make revenue as “tricking the user,” Duffy said.

Google is making serious moves into hardware after acquiring smart-thermostat darling Nest in January. But while it’s branching out, its core business is still advertising — and new smart-home devices are not immune. In a letter to the SEC last year, Google said that “a few years from now, we and other companies could be serving ads and other content on refrigerators, car dashboards, thermostats, glasses, and watches, to name just a few possibilities.”

Nest CEO Tony Fadell quickly clarified that ads are not planned for Nest devices, which include a thermostat and a carbon monoxide-smoke detector that was recalled last week.

“Nest is being run independently from the rest of Google, with a separate management team, brand and culture,” he said last week in an emailed statement to Re/code. “For example, Nest has a paid-for business model, while Google has generally had an ads-supported business model. We have nothing against ads — after all Nest does lots of advertising. We just don’t think ads are right for the Nest user experience.”

Nest may be against ads, but it’s making a quiet side business of managing users’ energy consumption on behalf of energy companies. He told Forbes in December that the business will help fatten his margins.

But Duffy said he’s proud that selling hardware for a profit means the company has no incentive to try to monetize user data.

“People are attracted to this idea of making a product and selling it to people for a profit,” he told Xconomy. “More and more, people are starting to think that other types of business models are bullshit.”

While the idea of a video camera recording you and your family’s every move make may seem creepy, Duffy says Dropcam’s business model ensures they won’t want to capitalize on the data they record.

Facebook is also cataloguing your life, but you don’t pay them to do that, so their incentives are quite different,” Duffy said. “They want to use your data to sell things.”

That’s somewhat comforting. But companies are always evolving — and just because it’s not immediately clear how to monetize home surveillance data doesn’t mean it won’t be done eventually.

Business models aside, Dropcam also has a strong company culture — one that doesn’t quite align with Google’s. Duffy, who flies helicopters, takes new hires out on a ride, and as of last year, has never had an employee quit. Part of that culture, detailed in a long interview at Xconomy, might run up against some of Google’s most lauded perks: free meals (and the long hours that come with them).

Dropcam pays for breakfast and lunch, and adding dinner “would cost us nothing” and keep people working more hours, Duffy said. But instead, employees are booted out the door at 6 p.m. so they can enjoy some sunshine and a dinner with family. It keeps employees happier and more productive instead of burning them out. And, most importantly, it’s not “tricking” anyone.

“When you have a person who can work anywhere they want to, and you say, ‘We bring in breakfast, lunch, and dinner,’ you are really trying to trick them,” he said. “You are trying to get them to work until 10 p.m. or midnight every night.”/>/>

A Google spokesman said the company does not comment on rumors or speculation. Dropcam did not respond to a request for comment. The Information’s report did not have details on the status of talks between the two companies.

 
 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

First Italian female astronaut ready for spaceflight
Rome, Nov 24 (IANS) History will be made Monday with the first ever Italian female astronaut set to go into space for a mission on board the International Space Station (ISS).
 
 
Mummy wearing jewellery unearthed in Egypt
London, Nov 23 (IANS) Spanish archaeologists have discovered about 4,000 years old female mummy wearing rare jewellery in Egypt.
 
 
Exercise and fasting could boost brain's functions
Washington, Nov 23 (IANS) Exercise along with occasional fasting is good for boosting the brain's neurons, shows a new research.
 
 
One infant dies in Pakistan hospital
Islamabad, Nov 23 (IANS) One more infant died due to lack of oxygen in an incubator and negligence of the hospital administration in Pakistan, bringing the number of such deaths to 19 in the past five days.
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

270 Syrian refugees saved off coast of Cyprus
Nicosia, Nov 24 (IANS) A boat carrying 270 Syrian refugees trying to reach Europe was towed to the Turkish controlled northern coast of Cyprus after drifting for several hours. The rescue operation took place...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
It?s direction over acting for Jolie
Los Angeles, Nov 24 (IANS) Actress Angelina Jolie says she is now looking to focus on her directing career. "I've never been comfortable as an actor -- I've never loved being in front of the camera. I didn't ever...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Al Qaeda-linked fighters target two Shia towns in Syria
Damascus, Nov 24 (IANS) The Al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front and like-minded groups attacked two pro-government and predominantly Shia towns, in Syria's Aleppo province. The attack on the towns of Nubul and Zahra Sunday...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Pattinson gets naughty with FKA Twigs in public
Los Angeles, Nov 24 (IANS) Actor Robert Pattinson seemed to be in a playful mood when he grabbed his girlfriend FKA Twigs's derriere while strolling here recently. The duo had stepped out together Friday afternoon for...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Focus shifts to 'political agreement' over Iranian nuclear issue
Tehran, Nov 24 (IANS) Iran and six world powers would now look to negotiate a "political agreement" as a comprehensive deal by the Nov 24 deadline would be "impossible", Iranian officials said. "We haven't been...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Political leader shot dead in Pakistan
Karachi, Nov 24 (IANS) A leader of the Awami National Party (ANP), Ziauddin was gunned down Sunday by unknown assailants in Orangi Town in the Pakistani city of Karachi, media reported. According to police, the leader...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Israeli cabinet pushes to make country 'Jewish state' by law
Jerusalem, Nov 24 (IANS) The Israeli cabinet approved a bill Sunday, which enshrines in law that Israel is the national homeland of the Jewish people and that this right is unique to them. Fifteen ministers voted in...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
When Lily Allen's sex life 'lacked magic'
Los Angeles, Nov 24 (IANS) Singer Lily Allen, who says she didn't enjoy a great sex life until she was in her mid-20s, believes sex needs to be reprented as an "emotive experience" in popular media. She says the media...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Bangladesh beats Zimbabwe in second ODI
Dhaka, Nov 24 (IANS) Bangladesh beat Zimbabwe by 68 runs in the second one day international (ODI) at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury stadium in Chittagong Sunday, to go 2-0 up in the five-match cricket series. Batting...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Stand up for your rights, Imran Khan tells Pakistanis
Islamabad, Nov 24 (IANS) Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan said Sunday that the people of Pakistan must stand up for their rights, when the party holds a rally Nov 30 in Islamabad. Addressing a public...
Read more on Politics Balla