Amazon, Apple, and Google are Staying for Dinner
Big tech companies have created the greatest Trojan horse since the Greeks sacked Troy. Not only were they able to get themselves inside millions of homes, but they got people to pay them for it. Big technology is becoming more intertwined into our lives, and it is important to think about the implications of giving up more of our control to them as they continue to use our data as advertising material.
Is the convenience of a voice assistant really worth the cost?
Now, don’t get me wrong. Voice assistants are incredible pieces of technology, and the number of things these compact devices can do through voice recognition is remarkable. However, let’s not pretend that we’re the ones who own them. As Paul Miller at The Verge puts it, “Amazon owns my Echo; I’m just feeding it.” We sustain these “pets” of corporate conglomerations like Google, Apple, and Amazon with our own personal data, which is then sold and used to advertise to us.
Voice technology isn’t new and has evolved impressively since 2010, when Siri was introduced on iPhones. Often, however, the entertainment, benefits, and convenience that voice assistants provide us with can blind us to their cost: we give up control and we give away a huge amount of our personal information for companies to use and profit from as they please.
OK Google, Siri, and Alexa, what are you really up to?
Have you noticed yet just how little control you have over your voice assistant? Alexa will often interrupt activities to update itself. While it may be helpful to have the most up-to-date device, it can also be untimely and intrusive. Rather than updating at your control, your voice assistant may choose the climatic sequence in an audiobook or the middle of your favorite song to do so.
Even the answers that your voice assistant provides to your questions are beginning to shape the way we think. Asking simple questions can provide factual answers, but, surprisingly, asking your voice assistant more philosophical or esoteric questions will also receive a response. While this can be entertaining at times, think about how these companies now have the ability to shape the way we think about topics. The answers are not simple and are clearly designed by Amazon, Apple, or Google.
So, who really is in control of your voice assistant?
As Paul Miller points out, “Voice assistants are an opportunity for companies like Amazon, Google, and Apple to literally place a corporate representative inside your home.” These devices may appear to be the perfect dinner guests, quiet and unobtrusive, intently listening and speaking only when spoken to. It would be foolish to assume that they don’t use this golden opportunity to learn as much about you as they can to then turn around and use in targeted advertising.
You may have paid for your voice assistant, but big tech companies built, designed, and programmed it. Don’t think that they don’t want to continue to profit from it beyond the retail price. The simplicity and convenience of the device comes with a tradeoff. Your Echo may sit in your home, but we live in Amazon’s world. All of the questions, requests, and tasks help to provide them further data to send you targeted ads or new product emails.
Even though your voice assistant is only listening after the “hot” word activates it, those snippets of speech are imperative in helping these companies build a customer profile and better sell you.
As new technologies continue to be released, it is important to think about the impact that they have. While it may be convenient to use a voice assistant, there are drawbacks. Just imagine a corporate representative sitting on your kitchen counter the next time you make a request. Technology may make our lives better but it is up to us to decide how much influence it has and if it is worth it or not.