Amazon has too many ways of watching you now

“I see you’re running low on paper towels. let me order you some!”
“I see you’re running low on paper towels. let me order you some!”
Image: Amazon
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Amazon’s Echo Look, a selfie-camera-meets-AI-fashion-assistant, is now available to anyone in the US to purchase.

Like all other Echo-branded products, the Look is powered by Alexa, Amazon’s voice assistant, and can answer questions about the weather, news, and businesses, set alarms, and control smart-home devices. It can also judge the outfits you wear every day and suggest new ones to buy.

While Echo products have proven themselves to be useful in helping manage smart homes and answering direct queries, there’s something rather disconcerting about welcoming devices that listen to us at all times. Especially ones designed by a company that has perfected the art of selling us things we may or may not need. While Amazon maintains that Echoes only keep a few seconds’ worth of captured audio onboard at any given time, one Echo did just send a couple’s private conversation to a random contact for no apparent reason.

“Alexa, how do I look?”
“Alexa, how do I look?”
Image: Amazon

Amazon is introducing cameras to many of its consumer electronics products. There’s clear utility in some of these applications, such as home monitoring, or if you truly are obsessed with selfies. Yet it’s worth questioning the trade-offs of a tech giant theoretically having access to the goings-on in your home at any given moment.

Amazon now owns and sells the following products that contain cameras:

  • Echo Show
  • Echo Look
  • Echo Spot
  • Amazon Cloud Cam
  • Ring Doorbells (acquired the company in February)
  • Blink security cameras (acquired in December)
  • Amazon Fire tablets

These cameras are used to video chat, protect homes, take photos, and let Amazon delivery people into your home. They’re not really used to help Amazon figure out what to sell to individual consumers. It’s not that much of a stretch to see how they could do that in the future. Much like Amazon looks at customer purchasing data to see which products are selling well to then copy and produce its own versions, future cameras could be capable of tracking our every move and figure out what we want—before we might even know we want it.

Just got home from work? Amazon cameras could see that and order you dinner. Out of paper towels? Amazon cameras could pick up on that and order you more. Feeling depressed? Amazon cameras could notice and order you some ice cream. Looking away from the ad you’re being served on a video-streaming service? Amazon cameras could see and pause it until you look back.

It’s a brave new world. Have no fear.