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Say It Ain't Sonos!

August 22, 2017

Sonos has just announced that they are the latest company to revise their privacy policy to allow them to gather much more information about you to share with other entities. This data mining has become an increasingly popular business model, but it's usually a way for companies to make money when they don't otherwise charge for their services (such as Twitter)—Sonos already has a business model in selling their hardware, and at not inexpensive prices.

 

Under the new privacy policy they'll have access to email addresses, IP addresses, and account login information, as well as device data, information about Wi-Fi antennas and other hardware information, room names, and error data. With the inclusion of email addresses they've given up all pretense of claiming it's "anonymized" and can't be used to mine information about you as an individual.

 

Companies are extremely sophisticated in their analysis of this type of data. Target gained media attention quite a number of years ago when it determined a teenage girl was pregnant before she had even told her family. Tracking the kind of music or podcasts you listen to is likely to give anyone an idea of your age, your political leanings (are you streaming CNN or Fox News?), your education, and much more. The not-so-minor inclusion of room information could easily tell them your income bracket as well, if you have room names such as Billiard Room or Pool House. 

 

But the absolute worst part about this privacy policy is that Sonos is saying that if you refuse to agree, they may disable your hardware.

 

This highlights, yet again, one of the greatest benefits in staying in the Apple ecosystem. We know we're a broken record in this regard, but as you become more intrenched in a virtual world you need to be more savvy of how it all works. Many people lament what a lousy job Siri does compared to many other virtual assistants, but this is largely because Apple limits what Siri is allowed to know about you and can share with Apple. Services like Alexa and Cortana are compiling massive databases on everything you do, say, and look at, and then sending this information back to their respective companies. Apple has consistently refused to do this, and as a result it has limited Siri's functionality quite a bit, as much of her processing is still done by servers in the cloud. With iOS 11 coming out next month some of this will change, as Siri will now start paying more attention to what you're doing in the hopes of being more useful, but Apple has found a way to do this without any of that information leaving your device, keeping your personal information safe from everyone including Apple.

 

People are becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the amount of information being collected about them and how it's being used, and rightly so. We believe that this announcement by Sonos is just the crest of a new wave of companies telling you that things that you've already paid for are no longer yours to use as you see fit.

 

Apple will be releasing the HomePod here in the next month or so, and now I'll be hard pressed not to recommend it over Sonos.

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