This is a story about a Nest and a Canary and a few dogs who just want to have their day.
First, the Nest. All summer long I walked through Grand Central Terminal past big posters advertising the new security camera from Nest, the company that made “attractive thermostat” no longer an oxymoron. I am inclined to love Nest, even if one of the posters advertising its new camera features what looks like a baby’s mobile with the disturbing warning Because first steps only happen once. Which begs the question: Have we taken the whole “remote” thing a bit too far? Is anyone actually in the room with that kid?
Then there’s Canary. Canary is the ne plus ultra of home-security-camera coolness. It looks like a Storm Trooper helmet mated with a Pabst Blue Ribbon tallboy to produce a sleek, mysterious canister that may or may not be a time machine. Canary also has an algorithm-based motion-detection system. Meaning that over time, the camera will know the difference between your toddler taking his first steps while you’re at the office and a 2-foot-tall intruder from another galaxy who wants to take over the planet, starting with your empty apartment.
But despite the scary-cool Storm Trooperness of Canary and the fact that Nest can apparently teach your baby how to walk, I’ve decided there are four very good reasons that America should regard home security cameras with suspicion and fear.
1. They will capture things you really don’t want anyone else to see.
O.K., I suppose there is a remote chance that someday you will record a burglar, or an alien, breaking into your house. But your nifty little camera is more likely to record mundane activities that you would rather not have others see. Those things you do when you think no one is watching, including but not limited to clipping nose hairs, singing along to Barry Manilow’s “Mandy” on the radio, snooping around in your teenager’s bedroom for incriminating paraphernalia, and putting your bra on backward just because you’re bored and you always wondered what that would look like.
2. They make you believe that you are in control, when you’re really not.
So what if Canary has a siren and Nest can “talk” to whomever is in the room? Consider this: 17 years ago, our family cat, George, registered his disapproval of our decision to have a second baby by leaving a small, shall we say, gift in the new baby’s crib. Even if we had a home security camera back in those dark ages, no siren or voice command from yours truly could have stopped George in his mission. And if you think it would have, you’ve never met a cat.
3. Eventually the dogs are going to turn on us.
Speaking of pets, home-security-camera promotional materials present a unique PR problem for dogs, which presents a unique PR problem for me as a dog owner. Spend three minutes investigating these products and you quickly come to realize that the dog is always the villain. He’s jumping on the sofa, he’s standing on the dining-room table, he’s poking his wet nose into the bag of groceries some devious human left on the kitchen floor just to see if he would take the bait.
Why is it always the dog’s fault? What, guinea pigs never cause problems? Ferrets? Turtles? We had a hamster once who got his head stuck between the bars of his cage, which made his eyes kind of pop out and one of them never fully went back in. And that caused a lot of damage to the household, even if it was just psychological.
4. Finally, they suck the mystery out of life.
And a life without mystery is dull indeed.
Calm down, I’m not suggesting that you stop posting your every move on social media, because how else can you prove you’re alive? But there is no magic in life without mystery, and there is no mystery when everything that happens in your household is caught on camera. If my husband’s favorite song is “Mandy” (note to husband: purely theoretical), that should be his secret to keep. My teenager should be able to eat the last Klondike bar and put the empty box back in the freezer without my having recorded proof that he did it. And if my destructive, villainous dog sleeps on the sofa while I’m out, I’m O.K. with it. As long as he uses the lint roller to remove the hair before I get home.
Van Ogtrop is the editor of Real Simple
This appears in the September 21, 2015 issue of TIME.
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