This might sound familiar: whilst shopping for your beloved’s birthday present on Amazon, a banner extoning the benefits of an Echo Dot catches your eye. An intelligent assistant sitting out of the way in your kitchen or living room, always ready and eager to play your favorite song, tell you the weather forecast for Saturday, or even order more toilet paper you know you’re running low on.
What could be more convenient? Or indeed more of an indication of the wonderous times we live in, than our own listening and talking computer waiting to answer our every question and need?
Well, hardly anything… as long as your willing to sacrifice one key invisible element in exchange. And that’s your PRIVACY.
If consumers were asked by a company as powerful as Amazon: ‘Would you mind if one of our researchers sat in your living room and listened to your most intimate domestic converstations, and took notes on them all, for us to remember always?’
We’re guessing the answers would be less than excited about the suggestion.
And yet… that’s exactly what Amazon and Google have managed to convince literally millions of households to do. So everyday, these companies, not content with hoovering up the details of practically every move you make via your smartphone or browser, are now listening to the conversations you have in your living rooms, kitchens and bedrooms.
Their goal is to know as much about us and our buying behaviour as possible… to be able to sell us more stuff, or at least sell us increasingly well-honed advertising to buy more stuff.
The difficulties come with the fact that its not just your requests to play a song or ask about the weather… but all the other incidental domestic conversations you’re having about the health, finances, relationships, and political views of you and your family. Big Tech isn’t discriminating, its sucking up everything it can see and hear, and letting algorythms (and real people, although apparently just for ‘training’) peer into our lives in greater depth than Orwell’s Big Brother could have dreamt of.
So, what could go wrong? Nevermind the hacking stories that liter the news about occasional data breaches, millions of credit card details stolen… the usefulness of knowing us this intimately is far greater than a couple of fraudulent purchases. This goes far deeper.
The profiles being accumulated about each of us are ultimately about how much influence and power can be exerted over us. Its no longer just about what we can be convinced to buy, but what we can be convinced to believe and how we can be convinced to behave.
Smartspeakers like the Echo have opened a new chapter in our relationships with technology, and the consequences of how readily we accept it will ultimately come to affect our own decision making and individual agency.
[Disclaimer: Quickclass works with educators who own their users’ learning data in its entirety, never share it with third parties and always encourage total transparency in how users’ data is used, to improve the quality of our collaborative training services.]