EDITORS NOTE

Privacy doesn’t matter any more. At least not in the digital world. I’ve personally traded my privacy to every leading technology company that can offer me a service that even moderately improves my life. But then something happened on the day we were shooting the images for the smart-homes feature on page 38 that altered my perceptions. You see, most of the products in those shots are our own and that meant bringing my Google Home into work. It usually lives above a cupboard in the kitchen, far from my two-year-old's grubby little paws. When taking it down, I left t...
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Privacy doesn’t matter any more. At least not in the digital world. I’ve personally traded my privacy to every leading technology company that can offer me a service that even moderately improves my life. But then something happened on the day we were shooting the images for the smart-homes feature on page 38 that altered my perceptions. You see, most of the products in those shots are our own and that meant bringing my Google Home into work. It usually lives above a cupboard in the kitchen, far from my two-year-old's grubby little paws. When taking it down, I left the step ladder in position so putting it back would be a simple task. My wife video-called me from home to say good night to the kids and there was my son, standing on the ladder, asking where ‘Google’ was. It’s one thing for me, a semi-functional adult, to trade away my privacy to Google so that I can hear music on command and get full weather and traffic reports when I wake up in the morning. It’s different for a potty-training child. And because you can add multiple users (who must all have their own active Google Assistant profile), the device can distinguish between voices with alarming accuracy. All that voice data is recorded every time you ask Google a question and, to improve the AI, a data profile gets built around you. They already know my name and where I live, and my work address, and now they have my voice. I use Google Photos as my primary photo backup library, and it can already recognise my kids’ faces and has figured out that those children are mine and my wife’s, because it automatically shares images containing those faces with her. They ask Google things, so Google knows their voices. Even with our generic family Google account that we created for the kids’ tablets, I’m almost certain that Google has figured out the connection. These digital footprints are there forever now, allowing the search giant to track them for the rest of their lives and leveraging their appetite for consumption to further increase its advertising revenue. I’m basically feeding my children to the beast that’s busy making my job obsolete (Google and Facebook have majority share of all media advertising spend). We’re already living in that digital dystopia where the tech giants are given a slap on the wrist for their massive data breaches. And what did we trade away our freedom for? So that we can be bothered with work emails wherever we go, and have a heavily curated peek into other people’s lives and then judge them from behind our keyboards. But that revelation won’t make me give it all up and move to a cabin in the woods with no data connection. Because how will I hear the latest Kanye album? Privacy is a small price to pay for instant gratification.show less