As companies like Google and Apple continue to develop new technologies to make our lives easier, we’ve hardly noticed how dependent we’ve become on these technologies. Since 2007 (with the release of the first iPhone) we’ve increasingly grown so attached to our phones that we feel longing for them when we accidentally forget them at home. They are the first thing we reach for when we wake up and the last thing we reach for when we go to sleep. This behaviour seems normal to us (because everyone does it) but it’s really anything but. These companies are quietly tracking, analyzing, and using this data to find ways to further influence your decisions and get more involved in your life.
Want to see something creepy? Take a visit to google.com/history.
Yup. That’s a list of everything you’ve searched for and used in real time. Ever used Ok Google? There’s literally recordings of your voice on there. Have an Android phone? Every single app usage, every swipe, every webpage visited – all tracked and recorded.
Google knows you very intimately and they want to know more
With Google Home recently launching, and other products like Amazon Echo and Ivee Home also released, in-home AI will soon be in millions of homes across the globe. They are always listening, always on, always collecting data. One would argue that this is required in order to be an effective in-home helper, but again, I believe this is a way to disguise its true purpose: data collection.
If you think about it, Google and Facebook’s revenue comes from advertising. It’s in their best interest to know as much as possible about you in order to show you better ads. Google’s move to create in-home AI, is next level creepy though. I believe in-home AI is an attempt to build family-level advertising profiles. Sure, Google knows you pretty well at an individual level and can tailor ads to your needs, but what about at a family level?
We’ve all heard the story of the Dad who finds out his daughter is pregnant because of remarketing ads from the Planned Parenthood website. If Google better understood the in-home relationship of families, these sorts of mistakes won’t happen. The way we interact with the people in our lives defines who we are… not just our habits online. If Google can penetrate these interactions and relationships and become intimately apart of it – there’s a ton more data to be had.<
So what’s the end goal?
Well, since 90% of Google’s revenues coming from advertising, my bet is simply that: better advertising. Google will know you and your family’s habits better than you do. It will know your family’s routes to work, the traffic along the way, and their meeting schedules. It could know you went to bed late last night and offer to order you a Starbucks that would be ready for pick-up on your way to work (notifying and paying Starbucks, with your approval). When it comes to Christmas season, it could recall conversations you’d had regarding gift for your significant other, it could replay them, you could choose an item and have it shipped to your door. Google could be your families research assistant, executive assistant, biographer, and diary. It could document and record your family and individual life, eerily similar to a few episodes of Black Mirror (a great show if you haven’t watched it yet).
If you wish to fight against this future, your efforts may be fruitless, but good luck. Companies are finding more and more inventive ways of disguising spying & manipulation as convenience, and we’re barely batting an eye about it.
Disclaimer: I’m not against data collection as it makes my job easier, I am however concerned about transparency with consumers on what kind of data is being collected and for what purposes with these types of products.