Privacy: the update

Personally I’d rather see a bike advert

Since the early days of Internet services such as Google and Facebook, we’ve accepted that in return for these amazing services, we have to give some of our data away. It’s a value-exchange. We get to perform a search about anything, or store and share photos for free in return for the website having some data about us and selling that to advertisers. It’s a fair value-exchange.

It’s value because our advertising tends to be personalised toward us. I’d rather see relevant adverts, for example new bicycles products from my favourite brands, rather than tampons.

Even during the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica story, and the occasional data leak, consumers still get good value from their data.

But I’m starting to change my viewpoint on this issue since we brought Google Home and Alexa devices into our home. Despite Amazon and Google assuring customers their devices don’t listen and record all conversations nearby, I still unplug them when I know we won’t use them for a while or if we have guests round.

We have rapidly moved from a value exchange model, to a trust model. In the first model it was a straightforward value exchange, with an implicit trust to look after our personal data with care. In the new model, the device is so ingrained in our lives, sitting (and listening) on the mantelpiece, that it’s entered the trust of our home.

If “an Englishman’s home is his castle” then voice assistants feel like the Trojan horse gaining entry through an innocuous, innocent looking object. Sitting and listening from the sideboard, the value exchange now feels unfair.

Despite knowing the billion dollars of research that was required to manufacture the £35 device, consumers are starting to question the exchange rate.

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