In the past I have talked about how Google can predict your thoughts through context time travel. It was a neat little trick and pretty effective. But despite being accurate it did involve some guessing on the part of Google, it was like making an informed guess based on what it already knows about us the users. One thing I failed to mention was how Google gathered information about us in the first place.
Before turning this into a rant, I want to say that search engines are very useful. Information has never been as available to the mass as it is today. The predictive nature of Google not only saves you time, but it also helps you sort out the things you are trying to put into words. Countless times I was lost with words when trying to research an obscure subject, and a trip to Google.com provided me with answers before I could finish writing my thoughts. However, the key term here is that it helps us when we are looking for something. When it tries to help us without our interaction, things start to get messy.
When a company collects our data to figure out exactly what we need to buy, it is not to help us. It is just trying to sell us more stuff. Let's take the theoretical person that is lost and confused. She struggles because she doesn't know what she needs to buy. Well, that simply means she doesn't need to buy anything. But if she was searching for a product, and through data collection and machine learning a company can help her find exactly what she needs, well that's effective and mindful targeting.
Let me tell you why a few weeks ago I was freaked out when a company (Google) tried to help when I asked for no such help. When a company goes this far off just to recommend me a video to watch for ad impressions, I can only imagine how they will use their power in the future.
Not being the best at managing my time, I have been following a pretty work intensive schedule in the past few months. I have my own company and work as a freelancer from time to time to finance my endeavors. As a result, I get very few hours of sleep. And by few, I'm talking about 2 to 4 hours a day. Because the human body is very good at storing resources for extreme times, I didn't feel any problem at first.
But came a day, I simply ran out of those extra resources and became weak and sensitive. I could hear every sound in a 1 mile radius, each pounding my head with brutal force. I felt the strands of wind combing through my body and passing through my teeth as I spoke. Quickly enough, I caught a cold followed by a fever. I became sick, nothing too big, but sick enough to spend a few days in bed.
A week after, I had recovered but was still going with my bad schedule. Talking with a friend, she told me about my immune system weakening everyday as a I skip on my sleep. And told me about how the immune system protects me from mundane diseases. The immune system is my body natural defenses. The immune system this, the immune system that.
The immune system was all we were talking about for a good hour.
That evening, I decided I should sleep early and get as much rest so I don't become weak again. I grabbed my phone to charge it and to my surprise a notification popped right when I held it.
Yes, a new video about the Immune system was recommended to me. I know Google Services have the best of intentions in mind when recommending a video, but if it has to listen to my private conversations to do so, then we have a problem.
Many people say it is merely a coincidence but I bet you experienced the same thing. Remember not long ago Facebook was under fire when it came up with a feature to listen to our conversations. Their reasoning was that they are trying to improve our experience not listening to your conversation. Before it was dubbed an invasion of privacy, advertisers bragged about how they could match which show you are watching by simply listening through your device.
When writing this article, I was looking for Facebook post explaining that they are not snooping. This is the page I found:
If you look on the search bar, it clearly shows my name. They personalized this page to me, and I should feel more comfortable with their service because it is so humane. And sure, I do like when people call me by name. The only problem is that my Facebook account has been closed for over 2 years.
By trying to personalize my experience they are alienating me. It's like a stalker telling you about your own darkest secrets and expects you to feel happy that he knows so much.
I want to believe that is is the same innocent behavior of the early 90s when the internet was still new. Anything you did on the web was deemed pretty cool because it was, well, so new. Well not anymore!
Just because you can listen to a conversation doesn't mean you have to listen. It doesn't matter if it is anonymized or it is only used for internal testing, or whatnot. What if I was in your companies meeting rooms and listening to all your conversations and told you to trust me that I won't share it with anyone, or that I will anonymize it, would you feel comfortable with it? No.
Create. Innovate. But most importantly, Be Mindful.