To @f.catus and @angus.black:
You are right to be suspicious and you should be. There is nothing free and it is often true that if you don’t pay for something then you are the product. I’m the first one to tell my friends about it.
So why would Wyze be any different. Well, we are not. Like any other company we need to make some money to stay in business and we came close to not being able to have enough cash to continue operation. You can see the Q&A video for some of the details.
So how are we staying in business? Easy, we do have a margin on the product. That’s it.
But saying that is not enough to complete the equation. Any accountant will tell you that asset + equity should be greater or equal to liability or you are heading for a Chapter 11 quickly.
Let’s look at the liability side. Without getting into too too much details, we don’t spend money on marketing or at least very little. How much does a video on your tube costs again?
We have developed a strong community and we sell through word of mouth with a referral rate that makes any marketer drool! And I should know, I live with one!
We are trying to keep everything as low cost as possible. Our conference room use conference tables that we got for free. Ikea and Amazon loves us because we are sourcing a lot through them. We examine the costs of everything very carefully and determined if it’s worth spending the money or not. TL;DR we are very cost conscious and don’t live above our means.
So why am I saying this? Because we do NOT need to sell customer data to stay in business.
Now we could just do it to make an extra buck. Except that we believe in protecting our customers. We deeply believe that your data is YOUR data and not ours to sell. We put privacy in front of everything. We see what is happening around us. We see how Facebook is getting beaten down on privacy concerns and so rightfully. It would be stupid for us to follow the same path.
Our systems have been built originally with off the shelf products with little control over the flow of data. We always knew that the data was private and not shared even with our suppliers but we did not necessarily pay attention of the place of “storage” or the place of “transit”. The community, again rightfully so, pointed out that we were using a lot of resources outside the US and that they were worried about privacy in this context.
We reacted to it and worked with our different providers and fixed a lot of issues. Some could be changed fairly quickly because the providers had the options already implemented but for some other features like the registration of the devices (which is just the Mac address of the camera and the matching IP), it was not planned by our live-streaming provider. I’m pretty sure, but I have no proof, that using the worldwide fleet for the registration was an effort to save costs by minimizing the infrastructure and allowing the system to scale properly. Changing that behavior is not something that is straightforward. I know a lot of people just think that software is so malleable that you can change everything in a couple of days, but it is not.
I have worked on some software where just moving the data from one system to a new system has taken 2 people over 1 year of work because stopping the design of a brand new airplane for a week is not an option. Yes 2 years of work to avoid losing one week of 4,000 airplane designers.
So last point of this already too long post, when are we using customer data? Well, look at the google home beta. We have asked the email address of google account from people that wanted to be enrolled. Guess what happened to those email addresses once we subscribed them? Yes deleted. We don’t store them in any database or use them to enroll them to newsletter or anything else. Next time we have a Google related beta we will ask that email address again.
By the way, storing data costs money. For one person is cheap, for 1 million it is not.
Same thing happened with videos. For some motion detection upgrade work that we are doing, we need videos of false motions. We have millions of video from the events and the motion detections. They are all less than 14 days old because, you know, we delete anything past 14 days. We could have used those videos but we didn’t. This is not our data to use. We develop a special version of the app that is asking specifically for each video if the user is willing to submit the video and we are asking to tell us if we have the detection right or wrong. We used only those videos for testing purposes and those videos will not be used for any other projects.
Last point! I swear it is! Doubling, tripling, quadrupling the price of the camera will not change the privacy level of the camera. This is not a cost matter. It is a resource and a pace at which we can make the changes happened. There is something in software development called the Mythical man month. Google it. The TL;DR and the way it is summarized is that 9 women can not make a baby in 1 month!
Bottom line, there is no tangible proof that I can put in front of you. Just my words and explanation with a couple of facts that you can verify. But at the end it is a question of trust. You either believe me and choose to continue to use our products and services or you estimate that we are not doing the right thing. This is up to you and you have to be at peace with your decision, if putting a cam in a place where you think it will compromise your privacy, then don’t! That’s also why we are developing other form of sensors (like a contact sensor or a motion sensor).