Privacy shmivacy: The forgotten feature

Soon the year will draw to a close and, as is required by law, we must now look back on 2019 and analyze it.

No, don’t get up. We’re doing this.

Look, The Macalope isn’t happy about it, either. It’s the day before Christmas. He’s got stuff to do. This is the time of year he switches from rapping while drunk to wrapping while drunk. But this is what we signed up for when we met in the trunk of that hollowed-out tree and took a blood oath during the Reign of the Dragoonai.

So… if you can’t do the time, don’t make a blood oath during the Reign of the Dragoonai. Everyone knows that.

It certainly wasn’t new this year but one item you could consistently count on not being included in product reviews was privacy. Reviewers would faithfully mention RAM, pixel density, camera resolution, foldability and mouth feel, but whether or not a vendor had an ounce of respect for your privacy was as neglected as Terrance Howard at an Marvel Cinematic Universe reunion.

Think about how much time reviewers spent in 2019 talking about 5G. It’s certainly worth covering, but unlike 5G, privacy is something everyone can use right now. And almost no one mentions it.

All year long we’ve heard reports of how police are routinely receiving video from Amazon Ring doorbells and the locations of Ring devices. And yet, it’s only as of last week as reports of a data leak of the personal information of over 3,000 Ring customers broke that the Wirecutter decided, eh, maybe these aren’t “the best” doorbell cameras. And the Wirecutter is a good review site!

Amazon is not, of course, the only offender. Don’t get The Macalope started on the Muppets shilling for Facebook Portal. They’re giving mythical creatures a bad name. Not that there aren’t a lot of mythical creatures giving mythical creatures a bad name. The Gorgon. The Kraken. Medusa. Freaking Mike.

Hate that guy.

Privacy is a feature. Personally, the horny one believes it’s a feature that should be included in every device. But, since it’s not, it should at least be evaluated so people can know what Faustian bargain they’re entering into when, oh, trying to protect their homes.

Apple, while better than most about protecting your privacy, is not perfect. It gave Siri recordings to contractors without even allowing users to opt out until this fall. So, while purchasing often comes down to which device is better, Apple needs to be held accountable, too.

It is easier to write reviews based on hardware specifications and easily identifiable feature sets than more nebulous concepts like privacy. But until product reviews include such detail, people are going to continue to make purchasing decisions without even knowing the consequences of their actions. And that’s a shame.

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