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Nest CEO Tony Fadell
Nest CEO Tony Fadell

When Google reached a deal to buy smart thermostat startup Nest for $3.2 billion last week, one question resounded around the Internet: What’s going to happen when Google owns a product designed to know when its users are home or away? After all, Google is known for making ample use of  data to deliver targeted ads.

But Nest CEO Tony Fadell said at an interview at the DLD conference in Munich that, while he won’t rule out handing Nest user data to a third party, any changes to user privacy will be opt-in, rather than opt-out.

“If there were ever any changes whatsoever, we would be sure to be transparent about it,” he said.

At the moment, Fadell says that any data Nest collects about the usage of its products is being used to improve Nest’s offerings, and nothing else.

When it comes to the acquisition, Fadell said that Google was a natural choice after meetings that he had with Larry Page and Sergey Brin. While he wouldn’t reveal what was said, it seems to imply that there are things in Nest’s future bigger than a smarter thermostat.

“All I can say is we were finishing each other’s sentences and the visions that we had were just so large and so great, and they weren’t scared by them,” Fadell said. “We were both getting exhilarated by what could change and how things could change, and that we could have the ability to change those things together.”

The concerns about Nest reveal one of the key differences between the Internet and all of the connected devices we’re adding to our lives. While it’s a hassle to switch email providers, if you don’t like Google’s data collection, you can go to Outlook or Yahoo without any cost, and can pay to run your own mail server if you need to.

But what happens when a smartwatch’s privacy policy changes, or your smart refrigerator suddenly starts selling your usage habits to Safeway? It’s a lot harder to change appliances than to switch email providers. It’s clear that territory is something Nest and its competitors are going to have to navigate very carefully, and very soon.

Check out the video of Fadell’s interview below:

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