Imagine 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.
12 comments on “Google’s vision: ads on cars, refrigerators, watches, thermostats, and yes, glasses”
All a very, very good reason not to have an Internet-of-Things!. I will not have a ‘smartphone’ as I don’t want targetted ads, just a phone. I won’t be plugging in the RJ45 as I don’t want or need ads on the fridge or toaster.
“If not, are we going to have to AdBlock our entire lives?”
Funny how when I was reading this article, the only thing I could think of was AdBlock.
And I would sadly have to say yes.. Ads are only going to get more intrusive as time goes on. Tracking will also be more intrusive so that the ads can get more information about you and be more precise and successful in convincing you into buying their product.
At least that is my dark vision for the future.
I agree that this movement by Google should not be a surprise considering the revenue model of the tech giant.
What is a little more surprising is the behaviour of the general public. We, the public, or consumers, have a lot of power, and marketing gurus know that. Their campaigns have the intention of misleading the public, instead of informing (contrary to what they claim). So we should try to counteract them.
For example, if we do not want ads in our fridge, what we could do is to refuse to buy any product announced there, and furthermore, leveraging the power of social networks, inform the world about that (in other words, boycott those companies that are too much intrusive). If the majority of people did this, the intruding ads would likely stop. Just an idea…
“For example, if we do not want ads in our fridge, what we could do is to refuse to buy any product announced there”
Wouldn’t it be simpler to refuse to buy a fridge that displays ads, and refuse to load add-funded apps onto a fridge?
“…are we going to have to AdBlock our entire lives?” As long as capitalism exists, yes.
Google can sell ads to anything to make millions but since the consumer economy has gone the way of the Dodo bird, I doubt that the 47% and counting up can afford to buy anything other than the basics. If half the US population is in poverty, who needs to boycott? The 1%? Ads are meaningless if you don’t participate in the consumer mind set. I just don’t see them anymore.
Will Google develop talking toilet paper?
Just another reason to stick my kid’s homework on the fridge. At least until they start advertising on his spelling tests.
Not to say I enjoy advertisements, as I do prefer to enabled AdBlock on many sites. Of course, advertisements are how a lot of companies make money. Google, I don’t care so much about supporting as they are already a corporate mega-power, but they offer many amazing features and tools for free to the public. I’m okay with them having some of my information, as long as they give me the ability to opt-out in circumstances (e.g. the recently started ads with people/friends on them).
Google has always been good at making advertisements low-key and non-intrusive, and I don’t think that model is going to stop any time soon. We’re not going to have banner ads plastered across the nav screen on our car’s dashboard. The fridge isn’t going to flash bright colors at you to persuade you to buy the right frozen dinner next time. Things will quietly monitor your choices and patterns of life, (hopefully) store the information securely, and provide suggestions and tips on your smartphone/searches, Gmail, or whatever.
Think of how Google Now currently works: It keeps an eye on the things your search for, and a light look at your email, and brings forward cards that you might find informative or helpful. If I open it now, I see tracking information for a few packages I ordered, the weather for the area I am in, and the area it expects me to be in in a few hours, and some news about the Boston Bruins. It never yells at me, or gives pop-up ads.
I don’t really mind Google knowing what kind of orange juice I prefer, or what music I listen to. I’m willing to share that. Even the idea of knowing when I am home doesn’t really bother me. If someone wanted to watch me for a few days, they would know exactly when my house is empty, and exactly when I’ll return. As long as they aren’t recording my “private” times, I’m pretty okay with it. I guess the public question is: where will they stop?
I’m sort of out of things to do, didn’t mean to ramble that much… My bad! hah
It seems that many commenters are missing the critically important point. It’s not the advertising that should worry us, it’s the horrendously massive data collection and retention machine that supports it.
Even the author, after making that point quite effectively, appears to have lost track of it in the conclusion of the article.
Once that data is stored *anywhere*, it is out of your control. And vulnerable to just about any nightmare you could dream up.
With things like Google, Youtube etc cramming every single free pixel with ads it has actually done the opposite as far as I’m concerned regarding making items noticeable.
If I see an advert on Youtube I’ll turn the sound down and go and pop the kettle on, scroll back and just watch the video I intended to in the first place. I’ve gone as far as writing on paper testing old biros to see if they still work rather than wait for the ad. I’m sure Google gets paid for the ads actually running, and the advertiser thinks internet users see it, but like me I think the sheer weight of total and utter advertising overkill means we no longer take any notice of them.
Years ago we had Cadbury’s Smash martians, we all loved them, Now we get black and white ads of a girl and guy rolling round on a beach that just says ‘homme’ for a fragrance. No explanation of what it actually smells of. It’s not even an advert, it’s just product placement lost in a sea of product placements. Google and the likes are actually the death of advertising. People no longer take notice of them, they simply block or skip past them.
Are we seriously that deprived for interaction that we have to allow ads on every surface of our environment? When is it too much? It’s bad enough we are being bombarded 24/7/365 by ads in virtually every form of media available. They’re even advertising on our underwear.
Has anyone done any studies on the impact this constant harassment (that’s exactly what it is) has on our psyches? We are continually being told that we must buy, buy, buy or we won’t be happy and fulfilled. Then, when we can’t afford to buy, buy, buy, we become angry and disillusioned, because the ad industry has convinced us that we’re losers for not having a certain product or service and we lash out at others.
Don’t think it’s true? Just look at how label-conscious people are next time you visit a mall or school or just walking down the street. And its only going to get worse.