Nest, the connected home company acquired by Google for $3.2 Billion, now owns Dropcam. Apparently, Google sees value in people installing video streaming cameras in their homes. Is there an opportunity for such devices in our churches? Or are there dangers that should give us pause?

What is Dropcam?

The company sells a WiFi connected video camera that can mount in flexible ways around the house.  Since the camera is always connected, you can peek in on your home anytime from anywhere using mobile and web apps.  You can even have a two-way voice conversation with anyone near the camera. You can get notifications of motion or sound when there shouldn’t be either, so the camera doubles as a security monitoring system.  Dropcam also markets their product for businesses, with all of the same features, for security and sharing with customers.

How could Dropcam help churches and ministries?

Dropcam’s topline marketing message for their products is “Super Simple Security.”  Clearly, with a price starting at $149, Dropcam is an affordable solution for securing critical areas of your facility.

For a small church building, a single Dropcam with alerts set for motion and sound could replace an elaborate monitored security system.  For larger ministries, having Dropcams in your Children’s ministry wing, along with video storage, can provide peace of mind to parents and a strong deterrent to inappropriate behavior.

Theoretically, Dropcam could even provide live streaming of your church service to “visitors” around the world.

What is dangerous about Dropcam?

Dropcam has taken many steps to address obvious concerns with streaming live video from your home or ministry, but these concerns are still worth considering.

I haven’t come across any reports of unauthorized users tapping into Dropcam video streams.  The company gives the owner of the camera the ability to control who can legitimately watch video streams and sets the default to private (meaning only the owner can see).  The camera can also be set to automatically turn itself off when the owner is nearby – making it easy to monitor your property while you’re away while not worrying about generating video streams when you are there.  On their website, Dropcam also says “Dropcam uses bank-level security to ensure that your live and stored video are safe, even on open wireless networks. Your video is encrypted on the camera before it is transmitted to the cloud and streamed securely to your devices using SSL encryption.”

The second concern is that Dropcam could let its new owner (Google) use data from your camera for a variety of “big data analytics” purposes, including fine tuning the ads that get presented to you across the Internet.  Even without access video streams, Google could determine what hours you are home (or your facility is in use), how much activity there is in the building, and who you authorize to access your video streams.

In a FAQ about their acquisition by Google, Nest CEO Fadell wrote “Our privacy policy clearly limits the use of customer information to providing and improving Nest’s products and services. We’ve always taken privacy seriously and this will not change.”  However, “providing and improving” is pretty broad language, and what Google considers an “improvement” may not match your definition.

As 1 Peter 4:10 teaches us “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”

Source: Ministry Tech


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