“Alexa, what’s the weather today?”
“It’s 52 degrees in Norfolk, VA.”
Like it or not, the devices we use every day are increasingly becoming part of our lives. With new developments in applications that help users get a better grip of the world around them, the consumer has become ever more informed. This, however, comes at an expense. In order for an application to give the consumer relevant feedback, the application or service has to understand some aspects of a consumer’s life. Age, eating preferences, gender, location, it’s all part of the data that services collect.
With this in mind, should we really be sharing information about ourselves for the sake of convenience? To some, sharing data about oneself is just a minor inconvenience that is well worth the risk. To others, sharing data could be perceived as a window for hackers and companies to exploit the consumer. To an extent this is correct. Many services subtly collect information about the consumer.
Many of us are familiar with the ads run by Google promoting Google Photos. A family or person is having fun during an event, decides to capture a moment, and shockingly discovers they’re out of storage. Google Photos is a powerful application that sorts pictures for the consumer and frees up the precious disk space on our devices. But why would Google provide such a service?
Money. By understanding its consumers, Google is able to engulf that consumer with information that tempts the person to buy something. Not convinced? Take YouTube for example. YouTube provides suggestions for the viewer based on what they have already watched. Many people witness this, as each person’s YouTube watch profile is different. One can also notice this through the ads that they get on websites and through YouTube.
To some, Google has no malicious intent to harm their consumers. After all, consumers who use Google’s services abide by Google’s term of service. However, to others, Google is just another company who is exploiting their consumers for money.
There is a darker side to this, however. Many smart devices rely on input, both visual and audio input, to assist consumers. There is a chance that these technological devices could be tampered with to record or watch people. Not convinced this is an issue? Take a look at these cases.
Several baby monitors have been known to been hacked, allowing someone unrelated to the consumer to watch, and even at times, speak to the baby. Similarly, in this past year, one of Amazon’s Echo devices recorded a couples’ conversation and sent the recording off to Amazon without their knowledge.
Can we really trust our devices with these incidents in mind? That honestly depends on the consumer. For some, people listening and watching them isn’t something that they care much about. For others, the consumer fears being exploited if people are able to have some sort of leverage against them through effectively spying on them.