Amazon Echo: cool and creepy in equal measure

Like most people, the only time that my smartphone spends most of the day less than five feet away from me. Some people, I guess, sleep with it next to their bed meaning that it’s next to them 24/7 (I charge mine downstairs, on airplane mode).

So, realistically, given that either Apple (Siri), Google (Now), and Microsoft (Cortana) have services that interact with you by voice, by default our smartphones are listening to what we say almost all of the time. It’s a privacy activist’s worst nightmare and the NSA’s wet dream.

Today, the Amazon Echo was launched in the UK. For a recovering gadgetaholic like me, the offer of a 33% limited-time discount for Prime members is a hard thing to resist. It’s a device that just seems like it comes directly from the future.

It’s funny, even though there’s technically nothing different between the smartphones in our house being able to record what we say, and Amazon Echo, there’s something about the fact that the latter was designed to listen to us that is, well, a bit creepy. The comfort blanket of the ‘phone’ metaphor makes privacy issues like boiling the proverbial frog.

I actually think I would have caved into ‘shininess syndrome’ had I not binge-listened to Douglas Rushkoff’s new Team Human podcast this week…