Monday, March 26, 2018 by Jayson Veley
Imagine checking your email and finding a picture of your front porch taken by someone that you have never met or even interacted with – a complete stranger. While this may sound like the plot line of a horror film straight out of Hollywood, the reality is that it’s not; it’s actually something that Amazon is now doing for people after packages are delivered at their front door.
As reported by USA Today, Amazon’s new service is meant to help customers find where their package was left while they were at work or out running errands, especially if it was intentionally tucked behind a bush or a flower pot to keep it hidden from potential thieves. Additionally, the service forces drivers to prove to customers that they did in fact deliver the package to the customer’s home address. But while Amazon may have some legitimate reasons as to why they are taking pictures of peoples’ homes, it really doesn’t make the practice any less creepy.
When it comes to Amazon, concerns over privacy violations are usually legitimate, especially considering the fact that the electronic commerce giant has a history of spying and surveillance. Just a few months ago, the Daily Mail published an article on “Amazon’s creepy plan to put a camera and microphone in every bedroom” with the launch of the Echo Spot’s “smart alarm.”
“Amazon wants to put a camera and microphone in your bedroom with the UK launch of its latest Echo home device,” the article explains. “The camera on the £119.99 ($129) Echo Spot, which doubles up as a ‘smart alarm’, will probably be facing directly at the user’s bed. The device, which is already available in the US has such sophisticated microphones it can hear people talking from across the room – even if music is playing.”
The Daily Mail went on to note that the primary concern over having such a sophisticated microphone in the bedroom (or any other room in your home, for that matter) is that the device could potentially be hacked and used for malicious purposes. At the end of last year, British security researcher Mark Barnes was able to successfully hack into 2015 and 2016 versions of the Echo and turn them into live microphones, thus proving that such privacy concerns are, at the very least, legitimate. (Related: Amazon wants to put cameras and microphones in every bedroom in America… what could possibly go wrong?)
And it’s not just Amazon. Last October, Google announced the launch of Google Clips, a constantly-watching camera that uses AI technology to determine what moments in your everyday life would make a good picture. If the device determines that a particular moment is indeed picture-worthy, then it records a short clip for you. (Related: Be warned – Google is recording everything you search and say.)
The device, which you can purchase for $249 if you’re interested, is said to be completely safe and non-intrusive. “Google Clips is designed specifically with parents and pet owners in mind. It’s a camera and made to be used intentionally to capture more moments – seven-second clips – of the people that are important to you,” explained Google product manager Juston Payne in an interview with VentureBeat. Still, like Amazon, Google has a history of privacy violations and unethical behavior as well, which makes one question just how credible Google employees like Juston Payne really are.
While the advancement of technology from companies like Amazon and Google is definitely something that should be encouraged, it’s worth noting that these companies also have a responsibility to protect the rights of consumers. Advancements in technology should never be seen as more important than the constitutional liberties of the American people.