The Real Cost of Convenience is Named Alexa
Amazon is arguably the overall winner from the holidays. Everyone I know did a majority of their shopping this year in the comfort of their home. It is what Amazon does; they sell you everything you need from groceries to clothes to toys and everything in-between. So in an effort to decrease the stress of signing into your Amazon account on your app or laptop, they decided to introduce “Alexa” Amazon’s Echo. This voice-controlled personal assistant is a 20cm-tall black cylinder, about the size of two Coke cans, which contains Wi-Fi, two speakers, seven microphones and connects to the cloud listening as it sits in your home, plugged into the wall, awaiting commands.
To be truly effective, Alexa, says Amazon, needs to know more about you, your friends and your family. By knowing more about you, your friends, and your family, they argue they can better suggest new things for you to buy, exactly when to serve the offer up and even the set the right pricing to increase the probability you say “yes.” Making you nervous yet?
Just like facial recognition software, Alexa learns voices. It can tell a unique voice among a family and when that visitor comes to the room, Alexa can independently welcome them, introduce herself and even offer them her services. This means Alexa is always listening, always recording and placing this data into the cloud for …. What is it they are saving this for? Oh yes, money. They sell all of this data; the more they have the more they can sell to data brokers. It is a billion dollar industry.
The price of this convenience is quite clearly your private data and information. Once you “agree” to provide your data, it can be mined or re-sold, ending up in large databases of personal data.
For instance, take a company such as Axciom that curates data from multiple sources to come up with “more than 1,000 customer traits and basic information including location, age and household details”, as well as “more than 3,500 specific behavioral insights, such as propensity to make a purchase.”
The data brokers who have control of your data make money by selling these comprehensive lists or databases to marketers, non-profits, and fundraisers. It may not seem like such a big deal to be grouped into a category of “affluent males interested in technology products” but what if you are categorized into a group with “high levels of anxiety on prescription medications?”
The cost of convenience in my opinion isn’t the $179.99 price tag; it is far more than that, and many consumers continue to be unaware of the market in which they are unknowingly donating to.