I Will Never Buy My Partner an Alexa
When my partner asked for an Alexa device for Christmas, I refused to buy him one. I explained that while I ordinarily would welcome suggestions of what to get him, this year I would be ignoring his less-than-subtle hints about smart speakers, and he should brace himself for something else on his wishlist instead.
Having discussed the treasure trove that is our personal data when we watched the Netflix documentary The Great Hack together last year, I was surprised that he would even consider welcoming into our shared home yet another way for technology companies to monetize our personal information.
“But your phone is already listening to you and tracking your every search,” he said. “What makes a smart speaker any different?”
To some extent, I can see where he was coming from. I have a Huawei phone (the Chinese company Huawei’s phones were banned by networks including Verizon and AT&T in 2018 after being labeled a security threat). I spend my working days in the marketing field logged into my personal accounts on the same social networks that Cambridge Analytica used to help manipulate the 2016 U.S. election and the Brexit campaign here in the U.K.
But if your house is burning down, you don’t say “to hell with it” and start pouring gasoline on yourself.
And with the frequency of news stories about tech corporations’ wrongdoings and a distinct lack of political movement to regulate the unchecked powers of Silicon Valley, it’s easy for such headlines to no longer shock us.
Thinking about my prolific social media use since the tender age of 12, I may well have already given the government enough information to predict the name of my firstborn child.
But if your house is burning down, you don’t say “to hell with it” and start pouring gasoline on yourself. So why would I let a smart speaker into my home, knowing full well that Amazon is practically giving away this technology in an attempt to circumnavigate the global search dominance of Google and to manipulate users into buying more and more products from their retail marketplace?