Google Home delivering "ads"

What are people’s opinion of this controversy?
Is it is an ad or, as Google claims, not an ad?
Was this always inevitable?
Do buyers have the right to be annoyed or is it their own naivety that is the real problem here?

Obviously the cost of the product is subsidised because this is how they will ultimately make money back - but if you paid anything for the product at all should you not be able to opt out? Should they be selling a higher cost version which opts out of ads? Many questions arise for the future from this as a Product Designer.

I have a friend on the Google home team who confirmed this was basically an unapproved test by someone and it was removed. Not to say ad’s wont ever appear on your home, but in this case it was more of the reality of working in a giant company with a lot of people having access to the code.

Do you have a copy of the manual?
I mostly agree with you - anyone buying it should have expected it. However, I do feel you should be able to pay more and avoid it. Why not if Google profit from the hardware in that case?

FYI I edited my post and thoughts after learning more info from the source.

But with that said, their TOS for all products are publicly available.

“Our automated systems analyze your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection. This analysis occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored.”

So in order to defend this you would have to be claiming;
A: The owner frequently visits the cinema.
B: The owner has shown interest in Beauty and the Beast through Google Searches or YouTube video views or other.
C: The owner has shown interest in [insert actor] who features in the film through other Google services.

If any of these or similar are the case then I agree the “ad” is more acceptable. However, what is your opinion if none of these examples or similar are true and relevant?
Also do you think whether or not it is an “ad” depends upon whether it is financially motivated or not? I would say that is an objective differentiator, personally.

After the rest of the info came out, I agree it’s not acceptable (but predictable).

With that said, though they may not have handled it all that well, this was the equivalent of an intern sending out a bad tweet on social media. Was not approved and was quickly removed. Whether or not they apologized with the correct level of demeanor is another story, but the way content is curated it slipped past the censors.

But either way, as with all IoT type hardware, sadly you own very little of it. Just because you paid for the hardware does not entitle you to the same level of “Rights” that it used to. Service providers have a big stake in the game. Same reason you can’t go out and buy an Unlocked phone for the same cost as a subsidized device.

I think this is the obvious end state. The business model is based on serving up ads via search. That happens on screen today, but in a screen less interaction, it will have to happen over audio.

Imagine what else “the intern” could do with access to all those mics and speakers? How many people put tape over the camera on their laptops? I wonder if universities will start teaching courses on technology ethics to designers and computer science majors? What precautions and protocols will companies put in place? While open networks will spread much faster, I wonder if there will be a market for premium closed networks that mimic most of the functionality, but are secure? It has been written about before, but privacy and security will be some of the highest premium services in our century.

Food for thought:

I have always hated luddites but the more I see with NSA and hacking of internet of things, etc, I am beginning to think I want to become one.

Im right there with you. I have a pretty large digital footprint. My philosophy has been to go all out there to the point where it doesn’t matter as much, and then invest in things like identity protection. There is no point getting paranoid about the mics in these devices. Smartphones and laptops have had the same potantial for years. I think this recent issue just all of a sudden brought it to the fore front for some people, especially since the device’s only function is to listen and then play back content. Vs your smartphone where the mics and speakers ironically (because it is supposed to be a phone) are secondary to the screen. I don’t think people realize they are carrying that around with them all the time. At some point though you have to let it go or risk getting into tin foil hat territory!

I always got confused why people suddenly started thinking “Oh my god, you have a machine in your home that is listening to you?”

“Yes, along with the machine in my pocket that is also always listening to me. ‘Hey Siri, explain conspiracy theories’”

At some point the IoT botnet will become a Skynet when the quad copters start attacking us. But in the mean time, I’ll take the comfort of having home security cameras possibly deterring burglars over Russian’s watching me walk around the house in my undies.

Edward Snowden did a video interview recently where he showed how to disassemble basically all of the components off your phones PCB (mic, cameras) so that you’d be left with a phone that only had mic access when your headphone was plugged in. But at that point I question why you wouldn’t just use a burner flip phone.

What if we want products without ads though, really? Should it not be an option to be able to pay for it or should people wait for alternatives not linked to Google?
What about when we get Waymo vehicles from Google, will it be an entire ride of ads blared in our faces?
I’m less concerned about the data storing than being pestered really.

like this?

I think there is great opportunity in crafting personalized ads, one of the jobs of tomorrow.
If a company shows to understand, appreciate and care for their customers, with a trustful corporate policy then I think ads are appropriate when well designed. Of course this is all unavoidable and we need options to control the ads we are exposed to to a large extent. The old HCI paradigm methods will also apply to ad design and that is the problem with it today - the ads are only marginally targeted, useful and satisfactory, but some ads are well-targeted and/or can trigger good conversations.

What you want is mostly irrelevant compared to what makes more financial sense for these massive companies.

Google’s ad revenue was ~$80B in 2016.

Just to run the numbers on that, if they have ~1B average monthly users they’d need to convince every single user to give them $84.99/year to improve their ad margins by only 5% (which would only work once, and then they’d have no future growth opportunities, since ad buyers are always willing to up what they’ll pay for hyper targeted ads).

If you consider their realistic audience for “premium” ad-free content as being only being 1% of that market, that means you’d need to charge people hundreds if not thousands of dollars to get rid of the ads and offset the costs of losing that market.

It works if you’re not Facebook or Google, but otherwise ad’s are a fantastic revenue stream. Almost no companies with a tech footprint can exist these days on hardware sales alone.

Realisticly the hardware is almost given away. Look at the prices for some of these devices. The benefit to the company is the data and access. they need all that data and access to support their primary revenue streams of advertising and sales of other goods.