What you should know about Amazon, Google and Facebook

  1. Google stopped searching for answers, and just start providing them  

I assume that since the world population asks Google to search for over 3.5 billion answers per day that we are likely asking repetitive questions.   Google has figured that out all the answers to all of our questions and most times circumvents the search process and just provides their answer.bigmac2

As a result, Google has become the de facto source for all answers to all questions.  Google now supersedes Webster’s dictionary, trumped all meteorologists, and summarized all expert opinions into ONE simple answer.  Just ask Google – the weather, the meaning of life, or the number of calories in a big mac.  Google’s got the answer.

But what if their answer is wrong?  If the WORLD continues to look at ONE SINGLE source for answers to all of our questions, what will happen when that source is inaccurate, biased or compromised?

I asked Google the number of Calories in a Big Mac.  Google said 563.  When I asked McDonalds, their site posted 540.  I know it’s only 23 calories, but imagine if Burger King paid Google to misrepresent the nutritional facts about McDonald’s in order to sell more Whoppers?

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2.  Amazon is Listening

Next I worry about the power of Amazon.   While most are worried of rumors of blimp-based warehouse centers located literally in the clouds and delivering products by drone, I worry about Amazon’s Echo which is in many homes TODAY.   Amazon’s Echo is a smart assistant that is undeniably futuristic, but also practical, affordable and accessible.  This voice activated device allows you to not only play music but also control features of your “smart home.”  What people don’t realize is that this small cylindrical device on your counter is also a recording device for Amazon.  Amazon Echo stores past recordings on their servers to improve the accuracy of future queries.  You can delete these recordings from your account however, this may impede the Echo’s abilities as it can’t “learn” from your past commands to provide better service.   Amazon also stores your location data to give you more accurate searches, such as nearby businesses or directions.

While my Echo may not be collecting interesting data at my home, other homes may be more interesting.   For example, in a home in Arkansas a man was found strangled in the hot tub.  On the counter, was an Amazon Echo.  Police requested Amazon release data collected from that Echo with the hope that it may have insight to solve the murder.

So note-to-self…If you are planning on murdering anyone in your home and you have an Echo, press the mute button, which shuts off the “always listening” device, so it will be inoperable until you activate the microphone again (after the crime scene has been cleared).

The Echo is made by Amazon.  It would not surprise me if my Echo was sending my conversational and location data back to Amazon in order to target ads to me later.  For example, if I were complaining about the dishes in the sink caused by my broken dishwasher, Echo would report back to Amazon who would then serve me ad coupons for a new dishwasher next time I was on Facebook.

3.  Facebook is Watching

If you read the Facebook policy (the one we all agreed to) more closely, you will realize that you have unknowingly signed away some privileges and privacy rights.  For example: you granted Facebook a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any content that you post on Facebook (IP License). Further, Facebook can do whatever it wants with the photos you upload to their servers.  And just because YOU deleted a photo from Facebook, doesn’t mean they deleted it.  In fact, they didn’t and it will be housed on the Facebook servers indefinitely.

When you “Like” a company, page or brand on Facebook you are also giving express permission to use your name, profile picture, content, and information in connection with that commercial, sponsored, or related content (brand) without your knowledge or any compensation.

imagesWe all know that Facebook is collecting data about us on Facebook.  They know what we like, our friends and our location (thanks our smartphone app).   What most don’t know is that Facebook knows what websites you visit outside of Facebook.   Any website that has a Facebook ‘Like’ button will allow Facebook to track your visit. Facebook “collects information when you visit or use third-party websites and apps that use our Services (like when they offer our Like button or Facebook Log In or use our measurement and advertising services).”

Finally, when you logon with Facebook or Google, you should know that you are handing over data to this new site.  Facebook shares whatever is public on your profile and Google typically provides your email address mobile phone number, but both could provide more information than that.  For example, TripAdvisor uses your friends list to show you where people you know have traveled and which hotels and attractions they have reviewed.  If you sign in to Uber with Google, Google sends Uber your Google Wallet information for easy payments. Doodle.com, a scheduling site, asks for access to your calendars from either Facebook or Google.

Google, Amazon and Facebook offer access to their platforms and services in exchange for our privacy.  I am happy to give up my privacy for their services.  My mother once said – never put in writing what you wouldn’t put on the back of a postcard and mail.  That was before the Internet.

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