Originally posted 1/14/14 Google’s $3.2 billion acquisition of Nest Labs means it’s only a matter of time before some sharp investigator in a crime or terrorism drama taps into a home thermostat to detect if a suspect is in the building – and then turns up the heat by ordering a S.W.A.T. raid. While viewers will cheer the capture of a bad guy, the Nest deal provides a low-anxiety example of how Google and mobile wallet players are not content to rely on Internet searches to profile customers. They seek to triangulate everything imaginable, including Internet searches, the content of email and instant messages, personal finance transaction data, your location down to the nook of a particular store, and now data from the “Internet of Things” regarding personal habits like when you crank up the heat or air conditioning.

It’s more fuel for a privacy debate that will only grow as technology becomes more invasive. That said, the Nest purchase is hardly fodder for angst-filled hearings on Capitol Hill. That’s primarily because of the practical nature of Nest’s most prominent product – a thermostat that adjusts the temperature based on sensors that detect when homeowners are home. This device can save consumers money and save energy. As such, it serves as an example of how practicality trumps privacy worries. It’s also a story that reporters typically will view through rosy tech-glam glasses because Nest was co-founded by CEO Tony Fadell, who helped create the revolutionary iPod, worked closely with the visionary Apple’s Steve Jobs, and now will report to Google CEO Larry Page. But the fact that collecting data on the temperature of your home is so mundane underscores our point in “Ten Trends for Financial Services in 2014” that consumers are at risk of becoming numb to privacy intrusions. They’re at risk of evolving from privacy wary to privacy weary.

Although consumers will continue to fear such intrusions and abhor the idea that corporations can buy and sell their data, many could conclude it is futile to believe privacy truly exists anymore. As more consumers reach that point of capitulation, financial institutions and mobile wallet players increasingly will be at risk of being outflanked if they continue to base their branding on their ability to protect privacy. The Gang of Five companies – Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, and PayPal – are positioned to win the hearts and digital wallets of privacy-weary consumers with the rewards of practicality, innovation and simplicity.


About Mark Schwanhausser

Mark strategizes how financial institutions can track and serve customers across the channels they use, and provide a consistent, integrated brand and user experience. Mark helps banks and credit unions profitably enable customers to monitor and manage their money more intelligently through technology such as online banking, mobile banking, personal financial management, financial alerts, and technologies on the horizon. 

Mark led the development of Javelin’s Digital Banking Maturity Path, a strategic framework for assessing a financial institution’s ability to deliver advice in digital channels, and the Financial Journey Model, which builds digital banking on a foundation of time-tested personal finance principles. He has also mapped out strategies to upgrade online banking, digital account opening, and financial alerts in a mobile-first era. 

Before joining Javelin, Mark was a personal finance reporter for the San Jose Mercury News. He covered money and emerging trends in financial services and payments technology.

Mark has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri at Columbia and attended Antioch College.

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