The Google patent for a social media automator may be one of the worst ideas we’ve heard in a long time. Oh, don’t get us wrong. If it works the technology behind it is downright brilliant. Here’s the lowdown (with a hat tip to Mashable for first reporting the story):
Google’s social media patent would allow you to turn the busy work of status updates and posting activity over to a bot.
To start, the software learns your voice by studying all of your social media accounts. After the scan is complete, it automatically suggests updates and replies it can make for future posts. The ultimate goal of the bot is to learn how you use Facebook and tweet, so eventually it can manage everything for you in a full outsource of all things social.
The user would need to give Google permission to access their entire online presence, including social networks, email, and anything else out there that you may have signed up for at some point.
The access has privacy proponents crying foul to the idea. In comments to The Daily Mail, Nick Pickles, the director of Big Brother Watch, an organization dedicated to protecting privacy, warned: “That sort of data is valuable to both governments and companies, so I’m extremely concerned about any technology that purports to offer convenience while in reality exposing more of our private communications to prying eyes.”
The bot supposedly learns to mimic your writing voice, and will then use that newfound knowledge to seamlessly integrate itself into your normal interactions, effectively replacing you from the place where you’re supposed to be, y’know, social.
While you would have the power to refuse Google access to certain accounts, doing so would presumably limit the bot’s ability to be you.
From the patent:
“There is no requirement for the user to set reminders or be proactive. The system automatically without user input analyzes information to which the user has access, and generates suggestions for personalized reactions to messages. The suggestion analyzer cooperates with the decision tree to learn the user’s behavior and automatically adjust the suggested messages that are generated over time.”
Okay, that’s the lowdown. Now here’s why we find this to be a terrible idea:
Social networking is supposed to be social. What’s the point in having the account if you’re eventually going to outsource everything to a bot? When your bot is interacting with another bot, what happens if they have a disagreement? How will you know whether you should be pissed off at the other person? How will you know to block or unfriend?
In all seriousness, social media has already made us much less social creatures, and, one could argue, more self-involved and narcissistic. And just when you think we can’t get any more shallow, along comes this creation to drain a little more out of the pool. Thanks, Google. Society really needs this.
Of course, the counterpoint to this argument is that maybe if we can use the bots to pry ourselves away from the smartphone/tablet/computer, we can start to reclaim our humanity and superego. Maybe. But everything we’ve seen about technology so far tells us that all this would really do is give us more time to play Tetris Blitz.
Want another reason why this idea sucks?
How about the fact that it’s Google? They make a great search engine and a pretty cool phone/tablet OS, and while I appreciate the free email service, let’s not forget these are the guys who earlier this year said that your password-protected email account has no “legitimate expectation of privacy” in leaked legal documents. This came, by the way, on the heels of the Edward Snowden revelations in which Google was implemented in the PRISM program as cooperating with the government’s security overreach and thus exposing metadata for millions of innocent Americans to a government run amok.
Do you really want a company like that pretending to be you?
The counterpoint: Don’t be so hard on Google. They were just following orders, and it’s not like they were the only company that went along with the NSA’s demands. Domestic surveillance is here to stay, so embrace it.
Nope. That will never be an acceptable argument. In the last six years, Washington has gotten far more brazen about how they violate citizens’ rights to privacy. The country is at a critical breaking point where it has to ask itself how much it’s willing to tolerate. Loss of rights and privacy and free speech — these are things that don’t happen overnight. They sneak up on you. All the major tech companies were complacent in this. They may have been reluctant, but they still folded up when pressured for private data.
While there may be some positive aspects to getting offline and letting a bot do the interaction that eats away at six hours of your day when you’re trying to work, we’re ultimately skeptical if this is the right time, place, and company for this advancement to ever see the light of day. But then, maybe we’re just being paranoid. (Except sometimes, they are out to get you. Oh no, what was that — !?)