Friday, July 21, 2017

A Note About Privacy

A recent article in Wired Magazine reviewed and critiqued the various Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered devices known as home assistants or homebots. Tucked into the innocuous article was “A NOTE ABOUT PRIVACY.” It is perhaps the most relevant part of the article and reminds us of something we have all been thinking for more than a decade.

If your paramount concern in life is privacy, turn back now. Google Home and Amazon Echo are constantly listening, and they send some of what you say back to the mothership. But you know what? This is just another scootch down the slippery slope you stepped on when you signed up for Facebook, bought your first book on Amazon, and typed “symptoms of shingles” into a search box. Tech companies have always asked us to give up a little privacy, a little data, in exchange for their wondrous services. Maybe homebots are the breaking point. But the things Alexa can do—so convenient! One bit of advice: Before the gang shows up to plan the casino heist, hit the device’s mute button. — David Pierce, 

In a world of bank machines, cell-phones, smart-phones, internet browsers, and homebots, we have chosen to get services for a reduced cost or “free.” What we have traded for these free services is information about our choices. This is an invaluable commodity for those who would sell us products or services. The movie Minority Report (2002, Directed by Steven Spielberg) envisioned a world in which shopping malls would be filled with personal advertising to appeal to our particular tastes and purchasing history. The movie came out in 2002 and seemed implausible at the time. In 2017, we are tiny steps away from this view of advertising. Such advertising may seem invasive, but the things your smart-phone can do - so convenient!

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