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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

A case of too much privacy

The current brouhaha about the Cambridge Analytica use of Facebook data has gotten lots of people to talk about privacy and the use of Facebook. My take on the situation is that now I know why in recent years there's been a spate of "Quizes on the internet" spreading on Facebook: it's information gathering.

I, personally, think that our "big bad overlords" like Google and Facebook aren't actually making good use of their data. For instance, even after you've already bought a product from Amazon, ads for that product continue following all around the internet. Don't sell me the product, sell me accessories for the product. Or show me competitive products in the hopes that I might return the first one and buy the second one instead!

One particular use case bothers me: when touring, I'll use Google maps to derive a cycling route to a location. After deciding between a few alternatives, I'll fire up my Wahoo ELEMNT app and then try to get it to route me to that location. Wahoo ELEMNT proudly tells me that it's "powered by Google Maps", indicating that they use the Google API to derive their routing directions and then pass that along to myWahoo Bolt. But 9 times out of 10, the route shown to me on the Wahoo ELEMNT isn't even close to what the Google maps app shows me! ON THE SAME PHONE! I want Google to derive from my phone's IP (or other identification) and give me the exact same route I just found on Google Maps. But no. Where's my evil overlord when I need one?!!

One of Garmin's best recently introduced features is Garmin's Heat Maps routing. Unfortunately, they only use it to suggest loop rides. That's silly. When I'm touring, I don't want to ride a loop! I want to get to a certain destination. And since I'm cycling, I want to use routes favored by other cyclists. Heck, I'd love it if Garmin profiled me and gave me the perfect route for when I'm riding on my single bike vs riding on the tandem with my son. But again, despite having all that data (which Google probably also has), they refuse to do anything useful with it.

In any case, I don't want to argue against privacy (or that Facebook shouldn't be punished for not revealing about how that data was used until 2 years after the fact). I just think that when it comes to using customer data, the big tech companies both go too far while simultaneously do not go far enough.

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