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Do technology companies know too much?

I had two really interesting comments from my last couple of posts that got me thinking.

  1. Alexa, Google, and others already listen and hear way too much.
  2. Technology companies are too big, and technology is moving in ways that aren’t benefiting people directly.

I find incredible comments from people always help me focus on trying to help people understand both sides. I wanted to spend a little time walking through these two because there are two distinct sides to both of these concerns, and we must share information that makes sure both sides are presented.

So do Alexa, Google, and the other smart speakers (including Siri) are ALWAYs listening. In the US, there have already been several distinct lawsuits that the various tech companies were capturing and using the information spoken to the various smart speaker systems. In part, they did that to improve the responses of the speakers. I mentioned yesterday I have a good friend that has a new baby, the baby loves jazz music. When the baby is crying, my friend asks Alexa to play jazz. Often, Alexa doesn’t hear because of the ambient noise (if you have ever held a screaming baby, it is not ambient noise). But the other side of the issue is they are listening to things said to the speaker so they can learn patterns of voice and speaking. That isn’t good!

The second issue is the reality of tech companies. Are they too big, are they too powerful? They know more about people that we may or may not want to have known. Do they, tech companies, know too much? Do they have too much power in the world? That one is interesting. The most valuable companies per the stock markets of the world are Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, and Alphabet (the parent company of Google). They, the tech companies, have lots of money. Money can be a negative thing.  The argument, of course, is that they, the many tech companies create technologies with the intent of ensnaring users’ attention and time.  That they create intentional “time sinks” that people spend hours on. That one is not something that is easily dismissed, but it is something that we should step back from the view for a second.

Advertising has existed since the first merchant went from city to city in Europe or Asia, selling something. They used their voices, and if you were interested, you went to see what they had. The reality is that if what the vendor has is interesting, people will use it.

Thanks to everyone that commented, the conversations and tops are always useful!

  • Question of

    Do you think Tech companies know too much?

    • Yes
    • No
  • Question of

    have you ever bought something because of advertising?

    • Yes
    • No
  • Question of

    Is money power?

    • Yes
    • No


What do you think?

20 points

Written by DocAndersen

One fan, One team and a long time dream Go Cubs!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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    Yes (8 votes) – 67%
    No (4 votes) – 33%
    Yes (8 votes) – 67%
    No (4 votes) – 33%
    Yes (9 votes) – 75%
    No (3 votes) – 25%

  2. There was an interesting case here, where a motorist was nabbed for erratic driving. He proved positive to drugs, as well.

    The guy had a dashcam video on his windscreen.

    The police viewed all of this footage, going back weeks, even months.

    They saw all of the other misdemeanours that he had done during this time too, all captured on his own camera. Speeding through school zones, not stopping at stoplights, or stop signs, driving over double marked lines, and other similar traffic-related “crimes”.

    They charged him with all of these previously “unseen” misdemeanours too.

    This stuff can be used against us like this too, it seems.

    He ended up with us many charges, as long as your arm, that would reach past the end of a lawman’s arm, right into the courtroom itself.

    The proverbial book was thrown at him, with all of his own pages, inserted into it now too.

  3. Technical companies know so much they lose track of individual people. A computer may have more facts than the human mind can absorb.
    However, people can get what they want if they want it bad enough.
    Money as power can only get you so far.

  4. Like Carol DM, I will never have an Alexa device either, or anything similar. They are very intrusive, and i really don’t understand why people need them! Is it such a huge effort and so time-consuming to just switch on the lights or music yourself??! All devices like that do is make people more and more lazy and less capable of solving problems. Yes, 100% agree – companies like Google and Apple have way too much power these days, and there is a massive misuse of technology now in everyday life. They are using it to spy on us and control us. It’s very worrying. I am mightily suspicious of “smart” anything, i.e. phones, TVs, meters, motorways, etc. I will always try to avoid having them, if at all possible. I know we can’t altogether avoid using technology and digital devices these days, since we live in the modern world, but I think we should restrict our usage to what is strictly necessary, not just go and get as many new devices as we can, just because they are available! It’s a real slippery slope….

    • thanks – the gaol was to get both sides out you have presented with carol the issues of privacy and personal choices around not having smart speakers!

      thanks – good points. now, the spying thing, that has been done for many years before the smart devices right?

  5. Everything always has both sides, advantages and disadvantages. Sometimes, it’s hard to find the balance. I remember reading some hipotheses that google translate “reads” emails and other personal texts to enrich and improve the database.

    • ah thank you I wondered when the privacy argument would come up!

      I do agree by the way that privacy is critical, and Alexa/smart speakers is one more erosion overall of our privacy.

      In downtown DC, there are between 400,000 and 1 million cameras. Many cities have more.

          • We definitely are DocAndersen. It’s not just CCTV now either, although that is bad enough. We have that everywhere in the UK now, especially in places like London and other city centres – I don’t know how many cameras, but I think we have more than many other European countries. CCTV is bad enough, but now the police have also started using facial recognition technology – cameras which scan and record the physical outlines of faces in a crowd, storing them on the central computer, for who knows what purpose. They have started using this in city centres to spy on us, and I have joined campaigns to try to get it banned. It’s outrageous that they have started using it anyway, without consulting the public, having any kind of a vote on it. The UK is turning into a totalitarian Big Brother state, sadly, and this is one of the reasons I voted to Leave the EU, because I know a lot of this unwarranted public surveillance has been forced on us by EU laws.

      • I think there’s a difference between getting recorded/photographed at public places and in the privacy of their homes, as well as the ways how the information could be used. Also, people could estimates for themselves the necessity and pros/cons for each service they use. Even institutions get hacked, so we are never truly protected, but if someone wants to reduce the risk for themselves by refraining from certain features that aren’t a necessity is a valid choice, in my opinion.

        • so here is a question I asked a very senior law enforcement official.

          Who owns my image?

          You see, if that public video captures me, and I break the law, then the repercussions are mine to suffer. I broke the law in front of a camera.

          But if I do not break the law, do i still own my image?

          A professional cannot walk the street taking pictures for a magazine article without permission of all int he pictures they are going to use.

          This is the topic i was rivin towards!!!!

          • That’s a good point. What I meant is that there are things we have control over and things we can’t control. It’s still a good idea to do what we can where we can despite the fact that in other situation it’s not up to us to decide.

  6. From our browsing activities alone, a former Google Exec (if I remember it right) said, Google knows more about us than we do…

    Not only that, these tech companies use social engineering not only to gather information about but also to manipulate us… Why do you think people get addicted to social media, games and other apps?

    • people get addicted to social media the same way people got addicted to

      comic books
      cell phones
      the list goes on and on. Addiction is going to happen, advertising has been around for a long, long time!

      • Yup… all true… but the scary part is… phones, gadgets, social media, games are specifically designed to keep people glued to them…

        How did they design it that way? The first step is to know how people behave. And how do they know how people behave????

        • so that is really an internet myth.

          Human beings designed phones. We also designed the wheel, radio, television and all of those have had lots of people directly engaged.

          in fact, i was part of a study in the 1990s focused on the impact of television addiction on human beings.

          Television was designed to hook people’s attention.
          that was the tenant of the study long before smartphones.

          thanks for the comment!

  7. I do not want to meet Alexa. Tech companies know too much, they have far too much power, they have more power than some countries and more money than some continents. We, humans, are stupid, we give our data for free to these companies and they make millions with us.

        • I am not so sure DocAndersen. If you have a mobile phone, you can call for help if you need it. Why does anyone need a smart speaker? Is it because we are becoming increasingly isolated from other people? We don’t live in communities any more; instead many people now live alone with only their electronic devices for company?? Back in the day, before there were such things as smart speakers or even old-fashioned landline phones, people lived together far more, in families and communities, so there would usually be someone around to get help, if they were taken ill. There was no need for smart speakers then! The latter are just a very poor substitute for another human being, IMHO.

      • Not in my opinion. They have more drawbacks than advantages. Realistically, how often is someone’s life in danger, when they are in their own home?! If you always have your mobile phone near at hand, you can call for help if you need it, after all.

        • interesting point. but it isn’t completely true. Your phone if it is within 12 feet or so will respond, but Alexa will respond up to 25 feet away.

          Most injuries and sadly many deaths occur in the homes of elderly people. More accidents occur within our actual homes than anywhere else.

          phone by the way, with Siri, Bixpy or Google, is the same as a smart speaker.

          • Yes, I know there are vulnerable people who need the extra help, but that is why elderly or disabled people, for example, usually have their homes fitted with panic buttons, cords they can pull when they fall which are linked to someone who will come to help them, that kind of thing. So what if a smart speaker can pick up your voice from up to 25 feet away? Usually, if you shout or bang on the walls, etc, one of your neighbours will hear, and raise the alarm! That is what people used to do, before all of this smart technology. It’s still not going to save you if you have an accident and can’t speak or move, you know! Suppose you have a stroke, and can’t speak? Or you become unconscious?? Until smart devices can perform physical resuscitation on people, they are not really that much use! Maybe someone should invent a robot to do that, a kind of autiomatic paramedic device! That would be more useful.

        • you raise an interesting point – i would say honestly that many cannot afford, or do not have the expertise to safety wire their house.

          so that a smart speaker that is cheap (you can get one for less than 40 US) is an alternative.

          Now a system that can detect someone that has fallen is video-based, and can also be set up for someone that is unresponsive.

          Given a situation where CPR can save a human being, how many people know CPR?

  8. Yes, companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook know way too much for any good. Do you remember Google glasses , do you know what became of it? (I did quite a bit of research on this years ago) When they want to hide facts these companies just blackout information. Lawsuits and fines really don’t hurt them, they are too big for us. They can manipulate information as it suits them.

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