The Register have published an article suggesting that the Nest Cam could be recording even when told to switch off:

Alphabet-owned Nest says there is no truth to the allegation that its internet-connected home CCTV cameras continue to record video even when switched off.

This assertion comes after a report from ABI Research found that the Nest Cam keeps drawing a healthy amount of current even when told to turn off, suggesting it's still observing.

According to the ABI Teardown report, the Nest Cam draws 343mA while off, and up to 370mA or 418mA while on, depending on the resolution of the video being streamed to the cloud.

ABI vice president of teardowns Jim Mielke said that while most surveillance cameras would be expected to drop power consumption when moved to their off state, the Nest camera continues to suck juice.

Is there any evidence that the camera is continuing to record even when told not to, or does power usage simply remain high because it's connected to the network waiting for the 'turn on' command?

  • 3
    Sounds like a rant against the things to me. Presumably the device can be enabled again over the internet? This seems like the normal sort of power consumption for a SoC which is inactive but running an OS. Jan 28 '17 at 21:46
  • It looks like he's sucking the juice to maintain connectivity and stay alive.... rather than recording! Jan 29 '17 at 13:00
  • 1
    I doubt Nest is optimizing for power consumption. An easy test would be to see if it's still transmitting anything over the network.
    – jterrace
    Jan 30 '17 at 5:56

Great question! As has been remarked in the comments, this sounds mostly like a news report rant that hasn't really researched completely. All the articles out there say essentially the same thing: no new research has been done to confirm suspicions, and all articles find their source (eventually) in a single article by abiresearch.com. That article in and of itself is lacking; as @jterrace suggested, it would be very simple to just test data transmission. However, none of these tests have been done.

In other words, just from a surface glance, it looks not like an absolute scam, but like an insufficiently tested hypothesis which can't truly be proven from the information given. Furthermore, I ran into a few articles like this one from SlashGear.com, which examines ABI's claims.

These articles point out that ABI has yet to explain why they feel that the current ought to drop when the camera is off. We tend to think of it something like a DVD machine or TV screen that turns on in response to Infra Red, but in reality, the Nest Cam functions nothing like the same.

A TV only needs to have a small portion of its system booted up. However, the Cam must have the whole system booted up, so as to be able to receive information over the network (drawing electricity) and start the camera as quickly as possible (which is estimated to take 45-60 seconds from cold boot).

The current staying at 340mA is not unusual: the camera must keep itself booted up and listening to the router. And according to their spokesman:

When Nest Cam is turned off from the user interface (UI), it does not fully power down, as we expect the camera to be turned on again at any point in time. With that said, when Nest Cam is turned off, it completely stops transmitting video to the cloud, meaning it no longer observes its surroundings.

So the answer is, no, as far as we can tell, the Nest Cam is not recording you when it's off.

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