Is Amazon’s Alexa Spying on You? This is Just the Tip of the Iceberg…
An Amazon Echo device recorded a Portland couple having a private conversation this month and sent it to someone in their contact list, fueling existing concerns that smart speakers could be used for surveillance purposes, as outlined in this Fast Company article.
Amazon devices have seemingly gone rogue and acted in unexpected ways multiple times now, although Amazon claims this is an “extremely rare occurrence.” The company went on to say it “takes privacy very seriously” and is “taking steps to avoid this from happening in the future,” as reported in this video posted by Newsweek.
However, this is not the first report of an Amazon device doing some this like this. In the case of one rogue Amazon Alexa in Hamburg, it triggered a German police raid when no one was even around… so Amazon’s explanation above would not hold true.
“Police broke down the door of a Hamburg apartment after receiving complaints of a wild party taking place, but all they found was Amazon’s intelligent personal assistant Alexa having fun while the owner was away,” according to this rt.com article.
Amazon released a statement in response to that incident, published in The Mirror, saying, “Echo was remotely activated and the volume increased through the customer’s third party mobile music-streaming app.”
Hmm. I don't buy it.
As Dennis Green astutely pointed out in this op-ed in Business Insider, “it takes a lot of trust to plug in a speaker that is listening to you all the time — one that you trust is not transmitting your private conversations or storing them in a database hundreds of miles away.”
And, according to this article on WIRED, your Alexa recordings actually do stay on a “faraway server somewhere” where they stay “unless you actively delete them.” Ack!
But Alexa is just the tip of the iceberg...
It takes even more trust to hand over our private conversations, consumer activity, shopping data, IP locations, caloric intake, restaurant ordering data and, now, organic (or maybe not) food purchases to the wealthiest person in the world: Jeff Bezos.
Stay with me.
Mr. Bezos is the founder of Amazon, which now owns Whole Foods. (And now Whole Foods is delaying a policy that would have required its suppliers to label genetically modified organism (GMO)-containing products on its store shelves by September of this year, according to this recent article in Food & Wine. So, maybe our #1 source of healthy food is officially not anymore. Blargh.)
Mr. Bezos also purchased the Washington Post in 2013, for $250M in cash, and founded an aerospace company in 2000, Blue Origin, which plans to begin commercial suborbital human spaceflight in 2019.
On March 6, 2018, Forbes formally designated Bezos the wealthiest person in the world with a net worth of $112 billion, making him the first centi-billionaire on the wealth index.
But here’s where things start to get really interesting.
In 2016, Amazon’s e-commerce platform accounted for 43 percent of all online retail sales for that year. In 2017, Amazon led e-commerce retailers in America with $178 billion in net sales. In April 2018, Mr. Bezos announced in an annual shareholder letter that the company had surpassed 100 million global subscribers to its Amazon Prime membership service.
Whaaaa? (See what I mean? But there’s more.)
Mr. Brachmann goes on to say that data privacy concerns surrounding Amazon Web Services' cloud platforms have also surfaced, “including inadvertent breaches of web-monitoring data stored on Amazon cloud services by private companies and the Pentagon alike.”
The Pentagon! WTH?
Amazon has also developed a technology to track down the actual location of consumers, as disclosed by U.S. Patent No. 7937336, titled Predicting Geographic Location Associated with Network Address.
“This technology gives Amazon the ability to determine ‘a user attribute of a potential user whose identity has not been recognized by a network service,’ including attributes related to geographic location of a user’s device, Internet service provider (ISP) information and even household income correlated with a geographic location,” Mr. Brachmann explains. “Also, anyone who might not enjoy the idea that Amazon knows where they’re going to be before they even get there may want to look at U.S. Patent No. 9123014, titled Predicting Location of a Mobile User…Take-out and delivery order information is also collected by Amazon from consumers according to the technology outlined in U.S. Patent No. 9898788, titled Predictive Restaurant Ordering.”
Can you handle one more?
For those who think one of the selling points for users of Bitcoin cryptocurrency is the anonymity that the digital currency provides, that anonymity is less useful on Amazon’s platforms, thanks to the technology described by U.S. Patent No. 9947033, titled Streaming Data Marketplace.
“The patent describes example uses of this technology involving the correlation of shipping addresses with Bitcoin transactions, which could be used by government agencies to ‘correlate tax transaction data to help identify transaction participants,’” Mr. Bachmann wrote. “It also contemplates law enforcement agencies using the technology to correlate global Bitcoin transactions with shipping addresses.”
OMG, OMG, OMG! WHAT?!
What in the world is Jeff Bezos planning to do with his excessive world wealth?
Count me out.
Since I have been nicknamed the “Amazon Queen” by my local post office workers, I guess I need to re-evaluate my personal shopping habits, like, tonight.
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