Google released a few new products in the recent weeks: Google Duo, Google Allo, and Google Pixel, Google Home.
Google Allo is a WhatsApp and iMessage competitor. The difference between Google Allo and its competitors is the built-in AI assistance. If you use Google Allo Google’s AI will use your chat histories to suggest quick written responses or emojis. This, of course, requires Google to read,
Google Pixel is a direct iPhone competitor with the difference that the unique differentiation point is – once again – Google’s AI. In the new Google Pixel, the new smart Google AI is called Google Assistant. To make your “personal AI” as useful as possible Google is going to collect even more personal information about each of us than before.
Google Home is another product introduced as a direct competitor to Amazon’s Echo. The difference: Google Home is already connected with Nest, Philips Hue, and Chromecast. Nest is one of the world’s most relevant smart home companies which was already acquired by Google in 2014. Nest is currently offering smart thermostats, cameras, and a smoke alarm. The new Google Assistant which also powers Google Home will, therefore, start collecting extremely sensible data straight from your home.
By putting out competitors to WhatsApp, the iPhone, and Amazon Echo, Google is not only trying to take a market share of those companies. The main goal of Google and its parent company Alphabet is to implement their own AI into our lives. Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai makes it clear to all of us: we are now living in an “artificial intelligence-first world”.
But what is the problem with that? Doesn’t artificial intelligence make our life a lot easier? Yes, it might be extremely helpful to us but by simply using Google’s products without questioning the intent behind it is dangerous.
The Nature of Artificial Intelligence means less security than before
The very nature of artificial intelligence today is that our data is less secure than ever before. In order to offer us a helpful AI assistant companies like Google need to read, collect, and store all our sensible data. In order to do so, companies like Google and Facebook need to step back from their efforts to end-2-end encrypt every single message we are sending. In order to become leading in AI assistance Google has no other choice than to step back from turning on end-2-end encryption by default. In addition, Google will by default store your entire chat and search history. This has enormous consequences for everyone. Law enforcement will now have unlimited access to all of your chat history, emails, location data, and even smart home data.
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) September 21, 2016
The reason why Google’s assistant is dangerous is because it collects, analyses, and stores the most sensible and personal data of all of us. Google’s assistant can access basically all information on your devices. It even encourages you to upload all your data to their cloud by offering unlimited free Google Drive space for Google Pixel customers. In order to feed their AI Google will from now on collect, analyse, and store as much data of you as possible. Welcome to the Brave New World.
Google can scan your emails, your locations, your hotel and flight bookings. By analysing your chat history on neurolinguistic patterns it knows the exact relationships of you and all of your contacts. It knows who you are having an honest relationship with. It knows when you are cheating. It knows when you are lying. It knows when you are going to bed, when you return home, and when you leave your house. It knows which music you are listening to, your favourite movies, drinks and food. It knows when your kids are waking up. It knows where you are going to have lunch today.
The idea of having such a new assistant is pretty cool. The scary thing is that tonnes of people will probably use these new tools like Google Allo, Google Pixel, and Google Home. In the end, we are giving up our security and privacy to a gigantic company nobody knows where they are heading to.
Which alternatives can I use to avoid surveillance?
You have the choice to use Google alternatives. DuckDuckGo is an awesome search engine (especially when it comes to scientific and technical search requests). Signal and Telegram‘s Secret Chat (you need to enable it manually) are offering you the world’s safest communication experiences. iMessage and WhatsApp are still end-2-end encrypted by default and thus still the better option to Google Allo and Facebook Messenger. You can use encrypted email services like tutanota.com or protonmail.com.
What do you think? Is the way Google (and Facebook) are implementing AI assistants dangerous for us?