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06 Oct 2016

Alphabet announces expansion plans

At the Google Hardware 2016 event held on 4th October, Google's parent company Alphabet announced its ambitions to permeate almost every sphere of life.

However, with Alphabet's plans entailing massive use of machine learning techniques using consumer data, is consumers' privacy at stake?

In context

Alphabet's plans and its implications on privacy

Sundar Pichai's words on the future

"We want to help you get things done in your world. We are excited about building a personal Google for everyone, everywhere," said Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

Expansion plans

Alphabet's vision of the future

Starting from the "Google designed" Pixel smartphones, to the Google Assistant AI system, to Google WiFi routers, to the always-listening (and collecting data) Google Home speakers, Alphabet's vision of the future involves a Google product at every nook and cranny of domestic life.

All of the above signals a move away from static desktops to a new range of cloud-connected devices.

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New age systems

How the new age Google systems will work

Since almost all of the systems are based on machine learning technology, a massive amount of consumer data is needed.

Machine learning works by moulding its utility to the tastes and preferences of the consumer, and as a result, has an appetite for data like no other system.

It is continuously harvesting data like a consumer's personal information, prejudices, preferences and so on.

Sundar Pichai on an AI-based world

"We're moving from a mobile-first world to an AI-first world. It's still early days, but when all of that works together, the Google Assistant allows you to get things done, bringing you the information you need, when you need it, wherever you are," Pichai said.

The implications of Alphabet's plan on consumer privacy


The implications of Alphabet's plan on consumer privacy

The implications of Alphabet's expansion plan is quite simple - it is a trade off between "customized convenience" and privacy.

To maximize convenience, a consumer has to forsake all privacy, and vice versa.

However, Sundar Pichai's presentation on 4th October conveniently skipped any discussion on security and privacy and only stressed on "benefits".

So, is it not time to ask such relevant questions?

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