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Australian retailer gives away Google Home Minis – but at what “cost”?

They can give them away because it's your data that you pay with.

Google is not search company, even though it offers search to its users. And it’s not a hardware company, even though it gives hardware like Google Home Minis to their users.

All these are just surface elements of its business, used as conduits to channel data from users, make that data very lucrative in advertising or by selling it to third parties, for massive profit.

As for Google Home Minis, when we say that the company “gives” them to its users, we mean, literally. But not directly – in this case, the Wolworths’s supermarket chain is behind it.

Woolworths shoppers were recently “pleasantly” but also just plain surprised the company started giving away these smart speakers – as they often do several times per year.

The Home Mini speakers are used in conjunction with Google’s Voice Assistant, and are normally sold at the cheap end for $30 (AUD 45), but can reach up to nearly $80 Australian dollars.

Google Assistant, meanwhile, is one of a host of “virtual assistants” that are lately becoming popular for what seems little conveniences and lots of novelty. They can (or can’t) “google” the web for you, turn the lights on and off, switch TV or music on and off – just by listening to your voice.

That’s what you get from them. What Google and other companies operating these always connected, always listening devices (like Amazon and its Alexa, and Apple with its Siri) get from you is your whole daily home life and all the data stemming from it. Privacy implications are evident, and the giant tech companies are short on how much of the data they “share” with third parties, and what those parties might to with it.

Because the real value is the data collected in this way, these devices are often sold at a loss, or in Google’s case, given away for free.

Like they say: if you’re not paying for it, then it’s likely you’re the product. But this thought is likely to have been far from the minds of the Australian shoppers at Woolworths, happy that they got their hands on a freebie.

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