Who can you trust? These days it is becoming more difficult to know. Thankfully, it is becoming easier to know who not to trust. Allow me a moment to compare a few technology giants, each with a different business model, one with a billion customers, one with a couple of billion users, one who wants to be loved but does nothing to deserve it.
First, Apple. The iPhone company makes money the old fashioned way. They earn it by designing and building quality products that people want to buy and end up using more than their competitor’s customers. From Mac to iPhone, iPad to Watch, and everywhere in between, Apple charges customers a little more for the privilege of being catered to, and customers have responded by making the company the richest and most valuable on planet earth. Think ‘affordable luxuries’ and you have described Apple.
Second, Amazon. The retailer doesn’t make much money (profits) but dominates the online retail landscape by offering goods from everywhere that are easy to buy and come with competitive prices. Search for what you want, click to buy, it’s on the way. There’s nothing bad about that process in and of itself but I have a few issues which are close to making me cancel my Prime membership.
Amazon is a stalker and a manipulator. Search for goods on Amazon and over the next week you’ll be treated to advertising on those products or similar products on websites you browse. You’re online presence is being tracked. Amazon and other advertisers know who you are, which websites you visit, and when you’re likely to buy whatever you searched for earlier.
Wait. There’s more. And it’s worse. If you don’t buy right away, Amazon knows your email address and uses it to hound you toward a purchase; sometimes outright, sometimes more subtly, but always with an insistence like what you would expect from a determined stalker. When you buy something from Amazon the company assumes you’re starting a collection and sends you promotional messages to buy similar products. Worse, prices change rapidly based upon who you are, where you live, your profile’s likelihood to buy, and other factors all culled from your online visits.
The stalker is a manipulator.
Third, Google, the company that has users but very few customers. Google’s customers are advertisers. Google software to users for free but in exchange takes information away from the user and sells it to advertisers. Yes, Google stalks users while they’re online but their technology is so slick the company can tell advertisers when you bought what was advertised. Nearly every website you visit online has a Google tracker embedded in it and it follows you as you move from site to site.
What about manipulation?
If you use Google to search for information or products, the search results you get are not a generic result given to everyone who searches and based upon the same keywords. No, Google tailors the search results for you. Google knows who you are, where you live, what you like, what influences you, and search results can be tied to your account, your IP address, what devices you use, and those results are designed to influence you toward acting upon advertising.
The stalker is a manipulator.
On both Amazon and Google there are times when I perform an exercise in gibberish keywords just to mess with their vaunted algorithms and machine learning. Take that, online profile.