From AOL To Digital Assistants
By Don Edrington, SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE
December 21, 2017
Hank Mason wrote that AOL will be replacing Version 9.8 with AOL Gold at the beginning of 2018 and that his attempts to upgrade to the new “Gold” version have all failed. Hank said AOL Tech Support told him his contract with Cox.net was for “regular Internet service” and that he’d have to buy Cox’s “faster” service for an additional $4.99 a month.
As for AOL, I signed up in the mid-1990s and stayed with it until 2000, when it bought Time Warner (in what many experts have called the “most disastrous merger of all time”).
During those early years AOL was quite innovative in being a combined email service, a browser, a search engine and a sort-of social networking site.
At first, these features were limited to communicating with other AOL members. Furthermore, the “communicating” happened via telephone landlines, since cable, satellite and cellular services were still a few years away.
Also, when a telephone line was in use with AOL it was NOT available for normal calling, prompting many users to install a second line.
1995’s debut of the World Wide Web (aka the Internet) brought dramatic changes to the whole idea of global communications. AOL Email users, along with users of, say, CompuServe, Juno and Eudora Email could now exchange messages with any of the others.
Fast forward to 2017 and the age of the digital assistant, such as Apple’s Siri, Google’s Home, Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana, with whom users can communicate verbally.
In addition to being chat buddies, these devices they can be set to continually monitor whatever we say — just in case they may have something to suggest regarding the words we speak.
Well, here’s something to think about: Consumer Watchdog (www.consumerwatchdog.org) wrote that the prices of some of these digital assistant devices have recently dropped noticeably (ostensibly to encourage buying them as holiday gifts).
Well, Consumer Watchdog’s study of Amazon’s and Google’s recent patent applications associated with these devices revealed plans for what can best be described as “massive surveillance” on people in their homes.
Consumer Watchdog went on to say, “A study of patent applications filed by Amazon and Google with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office revealed plans for a future in which digital assistants eavesdrop on everything from confidential conversations to children’s movements and the books on bedside tables. Amazon and Google would apparently like to know when you go to sleep and with whom you wake up.”
Well, speaking for myself, my life is so plain vanilla that this type of personal intrusion wouldn’t bother me — bearing in mind that personal data such as my Social Security and bank account numbers are securely hidden and NOT on my computers. But I must also confess to having no plans to ever buy a digital assistant.
Nonetheless, I would love to share comments from readers who have used these devices, along with their personal feelings about their pros and cons.
Contact Don Edrington at (949) 891-1731 or [email protected]