Amazon just released the Echo Look, and I’m not fully convinced that this is a great direction for smart home technology and smart home assistants. It feels very self(ie)-absorbed, and also so clearly connected to the ultimate goal of getting people to buy more things off Amazon; in this case more clothes.
With the original Echo, Amazon can recognize your voice and start to learn certain things about you, like when you leave home in the morning and return in the evening, what things you add to your to-do list, what’s on your calendar, and what’s on your shopping list. This knowledge is used to build a profile about you, which is ultimately used to market products and services to you.
With the Echo Look, Amazon can now get to know your face, see your home, and feed you targeted clothing marketing based on the picture you take and their “trend algorithm.”
For its part, Amazon has claimed that the Echo Look will not be analyzing your bedroom to help its learning machines collect data about you, but rather just the image of you. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a host of things that could go wrong for those that use the Echo Look. Here are a few that are on my mind.
The most obvious potential threat is hacking to the camera. We’ve all heard of the baby monitors and other home cameras that have been hacked – what makes the Echo Look any different? Since this device is marketed to be used as a closet assistant, it will most likely be placed in bedrooms. Suddenly, the place where people usually feel most safe to be intimate, to be naked, and to do whatever stuff they won’t do in public becomes vulnerable. If the camera can be hacked, a live stream could be triggered, and still images could be taken. These, and any photos you’ve taken with the device, could be stolen and used however the thief wants. Private details about a person could become public, including things that could result in them being a target for hate groups.
Along with the camera hacking, the data that is being collected and stored on the device could also be hacked. While Amazon has made it clear that it doesn’t provide your data to third-parties for advertising reasons, that doesn’t mean that that information can’t be stolen. The data being collected, when used without permission or for purposes other than intended, could be very invasive for consumers, and in some cases harassing.
Long Term Records
One thing that many Echo users don’t consider is the life of the data they are giving Amazon permission to collect. You’ve probably heard the general idea that once something is on the Internet, it can never really be deleted. Much of this data is being collected in a cloud, and has no expiration date. Not knowing exactly what is being recorded and when those recordings are happening could result in information that you didn’t intend to be public being stored – and potentially vulnerable to hacks – for many years.