Google’s vision: ads on cars, refrigerators, watches, thermostats, and yes, glasses

Google's vision: ads on cars, refrigerators, watches, thermostats, and yes, glasses

Image of fridge courtesy of ShutterstockImagine how your advertising-fueled Google refrigerator might greet you in the morning:

Good morning from your Google fridge. I see you have chosen Orange with your breakfast. Are you aware that Tescos is having a [buy one, get one free] offer on Orange?

Good morning from your Google fridge. I see you have chosen milk. Are you aware.......

That scenario comes to us courtesy of stnluk, a commenter on a story from The Guardian about how Google’s eyeing a future of ads in cars, refrigerators, watches, glasses and thermostats.

As the newspaper reports, Google’s plans to bombard us with ads in the Internet of Things (IoT) future is revealed in a filing from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from December that was only recently released.

In answer to the SEC’s asking Google about different pricing for desktop vs. mobile ads, Google explains that there are a bunch of factors that determine the price-per-click, including geographic mix, platform mix, property mix (i.e., Google Sites versus Google Network sites), ad product changes, advertising policy changes, and foreign currency exchange impact.

But at any rate, Google says, “mobile” is an increasingly fuzzy term, and it’s expecting it to grow to encompass all sorts of IoT stuff.

That’s where targeted-advertising-enabled fridges come in and where Google Glass wearers can look forward to a possible future wherein their facewraps pitch directly to their eyeballs.

From the filing:

We expect the definition of 'mobile' to continue to evolve as more and more 'smart' devices gain traction in the market. For example, a few years from now, we and other companies could be serving ads and other content on refrigerators, car dashboards, thermostats, glasses, and watches, to name just a few possibilities.

Ads blinking out from thermostats?

One assumes that’s a reference to Nest, the fancy, internet-enabled smoke alarm and thermostat maker Google bought for $3.2 billion in January.

For the moment, it certainly sounds as though Nest devices will remain ad-free, with the Guardian reporting Google as saying:

Nest, which we acquired after this filing was made, does not have an ads-based model and has never had any such plans.

Of course, that’s not quite the same thing as Google saying that Google has no plans for advertising on Nest devices, but it’s how things stand at the moment.

But then, that shouldn’t surprise anybody. Google generates about 95% of its revenue and nearly all of its profit from advertising, the Guardian points out. Why would the company acquire or invent anything without mulling how to rig it to feed its advertising revenue?

From a security and privacy perspective, this is cause for concern. In the filing, Google has shown that it – and others – intend to reach ever further into our lives and to collect even more, and more diverse, data about us.

The Nest acquisition, for one, will enable Google to leap beyond data it derives from our search terms and right into our homes, to know ever more intimate things about us, such as, potentially, whether we’re home or not.

Think about the NSA and the surveillance activities of other governments that Edward Snowden has educated us about and all they know about us now.

Think about what they could know about us: the new forms of data they could subpoena away from Google or other data-collecting giants such as Facebook (which, for its part, now wants to eavesdrop on the songs we listen to and the TV and movies we watch) or fitness apps makers (Facebook’s acquisition of Moves is a case in point about what privacy advocates call a “privacy nightmare.”).

Refrigerators aren’t generally scary. They generally just keep our food cold. Nice work, thank you.

But hook your fridge – or your coffee maker, or your watch, or whatever IoT thing – to the internet, and there are so many things that can go wrong.

Beyond the security and privacy risks of internet-enabled everythings, there is one essential question: do we really want to be marketed at more than we already are?

In many countries, children are inundated with ads for junk food, sugary drinks.

Growing up in the US, we watched a kids’ cartoon called “The Flintstones”, brought to us courtesy of Winston Cigarettes [YouTube video].

When the country decided that marketing cigarettes to children wasn’t a good idea, The Flintstones switched to marketing sugary cereals at them instead.

Ads can be dangerous. Do we really need more?

If not, are we going to have to AdBlock our entire lives?

Image of fridge courtesy of Shutterstock.