When I was a kid we used to get mood rings at the arcade on the boardwalk. We boys would give them to the girls we liked, stand close to them, and hope the rings would turn violet. Violet meant passion. If the ring turned blue, for cool and calm, we didn’t stand a chance.
The rings would change colors for a few days, prompted by changes in body temperature. Eventually they would just go black. We tossed them into the trash.
Now the word is out that Amazon is working on a 21stcentury mood ring.
Bloomberg reports that Amazon has a patent applied for on a wearable device that accurately measures the wearer’s emotions.
The device uses Alexa software technology to analyze vocal patterns and report back to an app, and Amazon, whether the wearer is happy, sad, excited, angry, etc. While Amazon’s filing does not mention what the data collected will be used for, it’s an easy guess why the retailer/web services company wants to know how you’re feeling.
To sell you more stuff.
Amazon collects an enormous amount of data on each customer, and their algorithms assume an awful lot about us. To the behemoth we’re each a collection of what we browse for on-line, what we buy, and what we look at but don’t buy. Make comments about products and they have even more data to use to draw conclusions about who you are, how much money you make, what your interests are, and what habits you have that you might not want people to know about.
Now they want to fathom our emotions.
Back in the 20thcentury when we bought mood rings, science fiction scared the hell out of us with stuff like this. Once a computer could read your most personal information and feel your emotions, it could begin to manipulate your behavior.
Product recommendations that appear to us as we shop seem so convenient. They’re really guiding us to buy things we hadn’t thought of buying, or to choose one product over another. That’s not entirely unlike advertising, but the amount of personal data Amazon has on us games the system and manipulates us in ways we are just beginning to understand.
Amazon already understands this and now wants to know your emotions to more accurately determine who you are, and what they can sell you.
To me, this is even more terrible than the app that predicts mood changes that I wrote about recently. All of these devices and apps collect data on us and report that data to someone else. It’s gotten to the point where the gadgets sold to us to make our lives easier and more connected are always listening.
And they know enough about how we feel already. More information and they’ll be able to change how we feel.
I don’t feel this concern betrays me as a madman shouting about mind control. The more intimate the knowledge an entity has of us the greater the chance that it will be misused.
My daughter is eight. I’ve long said that by the time she is a teenager, devices will be so sophisticated that when people think something, it will happen. But the devices, and the company collecting the data behind them, will know what the user is thinking.
HIPPA laws protect those of us with mental illness from having our health information shared without our consent among individuals, other healthcare providers and insurance companies. There is nothing keeping big data collecting firms like Amazon, Google, Facebook and others from learning about our diagnoses and prognoses from our on-line searches and activity and using this information to profit. Or sharing this information with others.
A device that reads, and reports, our emotions is further erosion of our privacy and a large step toward bone-chilling behavior manipulation by companies becoming so invasive in our lives.