In Essays, Innovation

Next time you check into a Marriott hotel, Alexa may join you to mine your questions and behaviors for its data bank.

You should be able to charge Marriott for your visit.

Of course, you’ll pay instead, as the experience will be sold to you as an opportunity to make your stay more enjoyable. But the real beneficiaries will be Marriott and Amazon; by learning more about you, they’ll be able to sell you more stuff, more profitably (as will others, assuming the dense shrouds of their privacy policies allow sharing your data).

To claim this transaction is equitable is a farce, since none of us has a clue about the value of our data, nor the ways they could be used to manage and manipulate our decision-making. And the phenomenon is far bigger than your next hotel room, since your every smartphone, smart TV, or home assistant click or comment yields ever more data…all of them opportunities for you to pay someone (or something) else to exploit you.

The inequity of the overall exchange is much larger, too.

I’m waiting for providers to innovate incentives for giving up personal data; in the case of Marriott, why couldn’t guests who choose to use Alexa get a discount for their stay, for instance, or incentivized to share even more information about themselves? The benefit of ordering room service via Alexa versus the telephone just doesn’t seem worth it.

Put more bluntly, if we’re going to get used in a hotel room, we should get paid for it.

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