In today’s Guardian I read with considerable unease an article on page 15, ‘Amazon’s latest bid to make homes smarter’. You may ask yourself why such a headline makes me feel uneasy? I think they should make us all feel uneasy.
The truth is that ‘smart’ technology has been integrating itself into every aspect of our daily lives at a rapid pace over the last ten or twenty years. Amazon have set of their vision for the popular Echo to be installed in every room in your house and to listen to every word you say.
You read that correctly, every word you say.
Amazon say their vision is, of course, all about making your life easier. They want it to work instantly with your house locks, CCTV, lights, electric sockets, appliances, television and so on.
But lets just think about what that means. Removing any brand association, this means effectively allowing a private capitalist company (who’s only real aim is to extract as much money as possible from you!) having access to potentially every conversation you have, as well as allowing it to control your home security and all your appliances.
I find that a quite a frightening prospect, but no doubt there will be plenty of people who have scant regard for their individual privacy and scramble to get their hands on the latest piece of tech.
Being a good consumer makes our lives happier and easier, so the false narrative of Western societies goes.
Consider too that this information will be passed over what are often relatively insecure home WiFi networks. The smarter your home the more at risk it becomes from tech-savvy criminals, who could at best position themselves outside your home nearby and toy with your lights and appliances, or at worst quite easily hack your network, unlock your home, switch off your CCTV and lights and enter the premises. Anything you can access remotely through a piece of technology then a criminal, with the right skills, can too.
A Creeping Invasion
Amazon’s Echo simple forms part of a larger creeping invasion of our privacy by technology giants, and many good slavish consumers are naïve in their complicity.
Companies like Apple and Google quite literally track the every move of thousands of smartphone users. They know exactly where you go, and how long you stay there for. If you’re using ApplePay and GooglePay they also know exactly how much you spend and where you spend it. They know how many steps you take in a day, and through smart watches can even tell your heart rate, pulse and get a good indication of your general health. That’s all on top of the data mining they do on you when you browse the internet or use applications like Facebook!
Oh, and all that data mined on you can be, and is, sold onto other companies. Anyone with enough money can know everything about you.
People are quite literally giving these companies access to every detail of their personal lives. Now Amazon wants you to go one step further and install listening devices in every room of your house.
Those of us who have read the book 1984 will be rightly alarmed.
I for one value my individual right to a private life, for that reason I don’t own a smartphone and have removed myself from most social media platforms.
It’s not that I hate technology, I just don’t trust companies whose sole purpose is to exploit people by gaining the maximum amount of profit possible from them in order to make the rich elite of society even more rich.