As Amazon continues its quest of world domination, it's moved well beyond books, groceries and at-home shopping to now, safety. And why not? Safety is a great way to win the hearts of people, right?
The Patriot Act was written for your safety, (ignore the government surveillance grants written therein). The TSA is there for your safety (ignore the machines that take pictures of your body through your clothes, that sometimes don't get deleted, oops!) And now, yes, Amazon.
If you look in your Alexa app, about four pages deep (You'd almost think they didn't want you to see it), you'll learn about a new program called "Sidewalk." What you'll also find is that you, like every Amazon user (approximately 112 million of them), were automatically opted-in to this new program.
And by opting in, you've agreed to allow access to your network with the purpose of sharing data between Amazon devices (not just your Amazon devices but your neighbors as well), massively extending the data range to create city, and sometimes county spanning smart networks. Gee, how could this go wrong?
Expecting a possible questioning of the security of data, Amazon published a research white paper outlining their technology and how their protecting users data; however, data breaches are an ever-consistent part of our society. They can happen at the highest level of government and yes, even most recently at Amazon, so can we trust that our data will always be secure in their hands?
While this Sidewalk program applies to just about any Amazon tech product, it centers around one specific device – Ring, which is Amazon's home security doorbell. This camera, 1080p, night vision capable with 155 degrees of visibility, will soon be able to connect your Ring to every nearby Ring, and continue down the line, until they're all talking to each other. And don't worry about a house that doesn't have a Ring doorbell on your street, beyond its 900MHz band which allows for ranges up to half a mile, Sidewalk uses nearly any Amazon device to expand its range and continue the chain-link process down the line.
The purpose of this program you might ask? To keep you safe, says Amazon.
To go along with this chain-link of information gathering via camera, Amazon has also filed a patent with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that describes how a series of cameras could be used to piece together a composite image of an individual's face. The purpose here is to give you, maybe the police, and Amazon of course, the ability to more easily identify someone.
Don't get me wrong, I want to stay safe and am willing to do my part to help my community, but how far is too far? I've got nothing to hide but I simply don't trust others intentions with my data.
Speaking of intentions, one might be interested to know that Amazon workplace services already sells this data. Meet Amazon Rekognition, which uses "highly scalable, deep learning technology that requires no machine learning expertise to use." In short, anyone who can afford this program can use it, almost however they want. Their website (aws.amazon.com/recognition) notes how it can be used to detect moods, gender, age range, face searching, text detection, and even identify thousands of different objects.
Rekognition famously notes that it can also see if people are wearing masks appropriately, and maintaining social distances. I can't possibly see the US Government, or states overreaching their authority, can you? (Looking at you, Cuomo.)
Rekognition has already been in use for years by major corporations such as the NFL, but also several departments of Public Safety and Correctional Services and even the FBI. The next frontier is local police departments and municipal governments who could utilize the software to enforce crimes and surveil neighborhoods.
Right out of a Hollywood movie, it seems as though Amazon is working to bring about a future, with its technology at the center of a massive decentralized surveillance network, running real-time facial recognition on members of the public using cameras installed in people's doorbells.
Orwell couldn't have written this better.
It doesn't stop there. We all know how Amazon has been focused on what you do for entertainment (see Amazon Kindle, Music, PrimeTV, etc.), but there's so much more! Amazon has begun to expand into health-care (see Amazon.Care), health insurance (see their collaboration with JP Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway in HAVEN), tracking one's tone of voice (see Amazon Halo), even carrying an Echo device built into your eyeglasses (not kidding, see Echo Frames), what you eat (see Alexa enabled Microwave), and so on and so on.
In short, Amazon seems to be everywhere, and understandably so – their stuff is really cool, user friendly and extremely impactful to convenience … I should know, I consider myself an Amazon super-user.
But, with all of this information at their disposal, it's also important to note that the aforementioned patent makes clear that any audio/video device, including the popular Echo products, can be outfitted with the surveillance features as part of their Sidewalk program (think of all those microphones and cameras already in your house and the future products you're going to be inclined to buy).
I've heard it said that fewer entities know more about the average American than Google, and it seems as though Amazon could change that.
When he originally stated, "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety," one could almost think that Franklin could have foreseen the rise of Amazon.
Seth Denson is a Business & Market Analyst, Author, and Entrepreneur. He co-founded one of the nation's most successful consulting firms and authored the best-selling book, The Cure: A Blueprint for Solving America's Healthcare Crisis which takes a deep dive into the business structure of our U.S. healthcare system and how we can reform it while maintaining our free-market. As a regular on-camera contributor, Seth has garnered a national presence discussing a range of topics including business and economics, politics, faith, and fatherhood. Originally from West Texas but with international business experience, Seth's "no-bull" approach blends metropolitan thinking with good old-fashioned Texas straight-talk. Reads Seth Denson's Reports — More Here.
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