Since the beginning of the era of smartphones, applications are part of our lives. Now it is the turn of the virtual assistants to handle this work. Some of us use Google Home or Alexa to run our home. From turning off the lights until you know who is ringing the bell.
That is, there is no return to give. Technology is evolving and the world is evolving with it. But how far are these wizards and applications listening more than they are supposed to? How much are they spying on us?
Earlier Facebook makes its application to use the smartphone microphones to hear parts of our conversation and give us advertisements. Incidentally, the goal was to listen to our television and also to understand the channels and advertising that caught our attention.
Are applications and assistants spying on us? The companies guarantee that no, but…
Google Home and Alexa are also called to reason. Although Google and Amazon ensure that the wizards only begin to “listen” seriously when they are called their names. However, I’m not the only one who comes across uncomfortable situations regarding my privacy.
It is not the first time I see advertisements that face the themes of my conversation. Even without ever having searched for this subject. That is, when you do a search on Google, Amazon or even in applications like Facebook or Instagram, these companies know what you care about.
That way, they start giving you advertisements for your searches. It is not by chance that when you look for a new television, you will have the advertisements of “your” internet invade you with dozens of options.
However, that’s not what worries me. I’ll tell you 3 caricatures situations that deserve a little reflection. Two of these happened to me, the last to a technology journalist who was forced to expose the situation.
Facebook is one of the applications that most know about you
The first time this happened was at home with family and friends. We were close to Christmas and we started throwing ideas into the air about what we could wear. One of my friends (sick of not having any conclusions) says “let’s all wear giant penises. Would be funny.” We did not take much into account and we ended up letting out a good laugh just to imagine 6 giant penises walking down the street on Christmas day.
Well, two days later, my Google ads were full of giant penis facts. Yap! I asked if anyone used my laptop or smartphone for the idea. The answer was no. Nobody had looked for anything! Did Google Home hear the conversation? After all the name referred to was “custom dick”. Did Google Home take this and started to suggest related products?
I spent two weeks watching this in my ads.
Another situation is just over a week and even more frightening. However, for this, I have to give you some context.
I am a lover of canvas. I like easy wears or even slippers too. However, the canvas design is not the most elegant to wear in a slightly more formal way. So, I went through the stores with my friend to see another type of canvas. I thought of buying a particle model but since they are not very comfortable with the price I ended up saving money and not buying. However, the conversation in the store was “but the canvas this”, “but the slippers that.”
Moral of the story. A day later I had my Facebook flooded with shoes, trousers, clothes and more other wears! In fact, so much is not a lie that when I opened Facebook to see what was the first publicity that appeared to me, there were the sneakers. I remember that no matter how much you have spoken of them, I did not go to the shoe once. The only time I wrote “canvas” or “cloth” was to write this article.
But I was not the only one
Finally, I was not the only one to come across the situation. The journalist, “Lauren Goode“, exposed on twitter a similar situation.
1/Over the holidays, one relative talked about upcoming trip to Zion National Park and another about her veganism/animal rights work. I myself never searched for these things. I’m now seeing ads for Zion National Park and vegan leather bags.
— Lauren Goode (@LaurenGoode) December 26, 2018
“During the festivities, one relative talked about the next trip to Zion National Park and another about his veganism / animal rights. I myself have never looked for such things. Now I see Zion National Park ads and vegan leather handbags.”
In addition, the well-known Walt Mossberg, mentioned again (indirectly) saying that he still does not trust services like Google Home and Alexa.
In fact, in its old Podcast Ctrl-Walt-Delete, Mossberg repeatedly stated that he had an Alexa constantly silent. Not because she was afraid to speak in front of the assistant, but because she was uncomfortable being constantly heard.
In short, it can not be by chance that such things happen. I’m doing a new test with Google Home. Lays suggestions for air that liked to go on vacation to certain location. This is without activating the wizard. Let’s see how much I’m suggested by the Mountain View company’s ads. As for other applications, it is not so easy to see whether or not we are being heard.