Google gets in on scary Halloween—could it backfire?

Halloween ghost bride photo Indie Art South
image: Indie Art South

Do you go all out for Halloween? We do it up in measured fashion, with some decorations and lots of candy for the goblins who show up at our door. Now Google is getting in on the holiday close to my heart for a number of reasons—you can use your Nest Hello to freak out those goblins in a big way. I’m not the only one wondering if this could backfire.

If you’re not familiar with Nest Hello, Mozilla gives a good overview:

“It’s a door video, two-way audio, motion sensor, infrared night vision gizmo that lets you see, hear, and speak to people at your door from your phone or computer.”

Andy Meek at BGR.com explains how Google’s Nest Halloween option works:

“Starting today through early November, Google explains in a company blog post, “all Nest Hello users in the US will have the ability to transform their doorbell chime into a cackling witch, a ghost, a vampire or a scary monster to make your front door a neighborhood destination on Halloween night.”

Jackolantern image Indie Art South
Image: Indie Art South

So here’s the scenario. A little kid comes to your door as Mom or Dad (or both) watch. S/he rings the doorbell and instead of a chime setting the dogs to barking, Google gives you a monster roar or witch cackle. The little kids will definitely respond, and most of them, I think, in a negative way.

I don’t have Goo’s video doorbell and probably never will. In the article linked above, Mozilla explains privacy implications, including the unknown aspect of biometrics data. The same article has an update about law enforcement hoping to expand the use of these devices for obvious reasons.

I love Halloween for many reasons—the artistic spirit loves any holiday sparking the imagination. I also suspect it’s in my DNA. This holiday, in ancient times known as Samhain, was the most important on the calendar for the Celts. In many Celtic communities, participation was mandatory. The fear factor arose because people believed the wall between the physical world and the spirit world came down at this time.

We usually have quite a few ghosts, goblins, pirates, princesses, astronauts and other characters show up at our door. I keep the decorations tot-friendly as much as possible. Seems to me if we had a Google Nest that set off a witch’s cackle when the bell was rung, our dogs would go apoplectic and no one would hang around for the candy. I’d rather the children walk away with smiles over the handfuls I drop into their bags instead of screaming for mom or dad to rescue them.

If you head to a haunted house on Halloween, you expect (even hope) to be frightened. But if you’re doing the standard trick or treat in your neighborhood, you probably aren’t anticipating a screech or roar when you hit the buzzer. So be forewarned.

(Kay B. Day/Oct. 23, 2019)

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