|iPhone 4S -- available Friday|
First, some background -- in April 2010, Apple acquired voice-recognition app maker Siri. Apple has since incorporated Siri's technology into its iPhone 4S. Siri understands voice commands (such as "Schedule a meeting at 4 p.m." or "Remind me to pick up milk when I get home"), and can execute a number of basic tasks, such as sending messages, looking up the weather, and finding nearby restaurants. Siri also uses a technique called "geo-fencing." Geo-fencing allows Siri to know when the phone has entered a pre-determined area, such as your workplace or your home. This way, Siri can perform tasks such as reminding you to pick up milk when you get home, because it knows when you've gotten home.
Most people think it sounds like a pretty neat feature--after all, who couldn't use a moderately intelligent virtual assistant? But not everyone -- blogger Fabian De Simone suggests that Siri is Apple's "Trojan Horse," and that, with Siri, Apple is gearing up to create the "biggest Ad-Network yet."
De Simone believes that Siri could infringe on people's privacy, and in a big way. From De Simone's article:
Apple already knows where I am and doesn’t even have to rely on me checking in. (I think Foursquare needs to pay attention)
Not only there’s enough public data to know about the locations (and businesses) around me, I will day after day build up geo-fences where I conduct business: grocery shopping, getting my haircut, my mechanic, etc.
Apple is going to know exactly what I do and where. And I’m going to be the one to tell them (by speaking to my phone mind you)Okay, fair enough. So because Siri uses geo-fencing and reminders, it's not unreasonable to think that it could in the future be used for delivering location-specific coupons and advertisements to your phone. The question is, is this a bad thing?
On the one hand, I understand where De Simone is coming from. I'm not exactly comfortable with the idea of my iPhone keeping tabs on me. That said, it's not like our phones don't already do this -- after all, wasn't there a huge scandal just a few months ago about phones doing this, and logging users' location data? Even if your phone isn't logging your location data, the fact remains that as you carry your phone around with you, you're sending signals to the closest cell towers. Cell phone companies therefore quite easily know pretty much exactly where you are, all the time, unless you routinely throw your phone into moving truck beds.
That doesn't mean it's a good thing, it just means it's a thing. It's happening. More people than you like to imagine know where you are, and there are definitely records.
That said, tracking location still isn't quite as...annoying...as pop-up ads based on your location. De Simone suggests that it could go beyond just location-based ads. For example, since Siri will know much of what's happening on your phone, it could suggest a pair of new shoes that your wife likes for her birthday:
So basically, Siri could be Apple's key to knowing lots and lots about its customers. But again -- is this a bad thing?
Now Siri says:
While you’re at it why don’t you take a look a some shoes your wife might like. Her birthday is coming upWait, what? (she’s even smiling now)
You see, a couple of weeks back, my wife sent me an IMessage or even an email and said: baby what do you think about these shoes? I think I’m going to get them next month.
Now Siri knows that my wife has an interest in said shoes and a time frame. Not only that, it might know based on that picture, other pairs that she might like.
Oh yes, Siri also knows that her birthday is coming up.
Desire + Opportunity + Delivery Medium = I just bought some shoes.
Wouldn't it have been nice if my phone could have done all that for me, unprompted? If, when I walked by the Betsey Johnson store, my iPhone popped up a 20 percent discount coupon, or alerted me to their sales? Even better if it could alert me about sales on items in my size, but I'll take what I can get.
On the one hand, I'm not a huge fan of my iPhone knowing where I am and what I like to buy. But on the other hand, I'm just...so...lazy.