News & Politics

Have We Willingly Let Technology Firms Get Too Close to Us?

Photo by: Silas Stein/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Technology is awesome. I’m constantly in awe of the things we can do in our homes right now. It’s entirely possible for a middle-class home to have the lights turn on from a cell phone, the AC be controlled from anywhere, and to have a device that will answer questions about the weather, sports, or anything else based solely on a voice command.

We’re truly living in an incredible age. However, are we letting technology — or, more particularly, technology companies — be too close to our lives?

Once upon a time, there was a barrier that would never be crossed. A company provided a service, but there were things that just weren’t going to happen. If you bought a new refrigerator, the store wanted you to be home when they delivered it. This was for everyone’s benefit: after all, no one could say the delivery people stole from them if they were not alone.

Yet those barriers have slowly eroded away.

We allow Google to track us in ways that we would never tolerate from the government. In fact, Washington merely proposing such measures would result in an assault on Capitol Hill with pitchforks and farming implements. But we don’t blink an eye when Google wants to know where we are every minute of every day.

If Uncle Sam wanted to put a device in our home that would listen to everything we say, we’d resurrect the age-old practice of tarring and feathering people, and for good reason. But we’ll buy Amazon Echo and Google Home and allow them to do the same thing.

I can already hear people saying that this is different. They can turn off their Echo. It also helps that Amazon isn’t sharing everything Alexa picks up.

However, we’ve not only allowed technology into our homes that would alarm us in days gone by, but we’ve welcomed it.

That welcome has now started taking technological offerings into territory that makes things a little less than comfortable. To start with, Amazon launched their Amazon Key service on Wednesday. This service allows Amazon to make deliveries to your house and leave them inside for you.

This means they have access to your home. The privacy concerns are obvious if perhaps a bit overstated. You’re basically giving strangers access to your home. However, it also requires the use of a camera that will record entry. So yes, you’ll be able to take a look at what’s going on — but is that good enough? Couldn’t the lock be disabled so someone else could come by later and enter the home?

Technology has also given rise to the idea of “revenge porn,” where people post private photos and videos to embarrass their exes. It’s a horrible thing, and Facebook wants to combat it. That’s good. Unfortunately, in order to combat it, they want people to send them nude photos.

If we needed definitive evidence that the lines of privacy were becoming blurred for technology companies, this is it. Seriously, someone said: “You know, we could combat revenge porn, but we need some nude photos of all these people first.” Then it was followed up by: “Let’s do it!”

Facebook has never used anyone’s personal information for its own benefit before, right? But some people out there are actually going to do this. Will Facebook’s plan combat revenge porn? Maybe. Is it worth it to let a company that deep into your personal life? Well, that’s for each individual to decide.

While technology does many wonderful things, it’s probably not a bad idea to take a step back and remember that it’s a good idea to keep technology companies at arm’s length.

For everyone’s sake.