Wired: Amazon Pushes ‘the Limits of Privacy’

Jeff Bezos arrive at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party on Sunday, March 4, 2018, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Wired magazine outlines in a recent article concerns about Amazon’s latest intrusive products and why privacy-focused consumers should be wary of them.

Wired reports in a recent article titled “Amazon’s Latest Gimmicks Are Pushing the Limits of Privacy,” that a number of Amazon’s fall hardware announcements pose serious privacy concerns. Amazon has faced a number of privacy-related issues in the past mostly linked to the company’s smart home speaker Alexa devices, but now as Amazon invests more in its Ring home security systems some are starting to become concerned.

Wired reports:

At the end of September, amidst its usual flurry of fall hardware announcements, Amazon debuted two especially futuristic products within five days of each other. The first is a small autonomous surveillance drone, Ring Always Home Cam, that waits patiently inside a charging dock to eventually rise up and fly around your house, checking whether you left the stove on or investigating potential burglaries. The second is a palm recognition scanner, Amazon One, that the company is piloting at two of its grocery stores in Seattle as a mechanism for faster entry and checkout. Both products aim to make security and authentication more convenient—but for privacy-conscious consumers, they also raise red flags.

Amazon’s latest data-hungry innovations are not launching in a vacuum. The company also owns Ring, whose smart doorbells have had myriad security issues and have been widely criticized for bringing unprecedented surveillance to traditionally semi-private spaces. Meanwhile, the biometric data that Amazon One will collect is particularly sensitive, because unlike a password you can’t simply change it if a hacker steals it or it gets unintentionally exposed. Amazon has a strong record for maintaining the security of its massive cloud infrastructure, but there have been lapses across the sprawling business. The stakes are already phenomenally high; the more data the company holds the more risk it takes on.

“Amazon has a major genomics cloud platform, so maybe they hold your DNA and now they’re going to have your palm as well? Plus all of these devices inside your house. And your purchase history on Prime. That’s a lot of information. That’s a lot of personal information,” says Nina Alli, executive director of Defcon’s Biohacking Village and a health care security researcher. “When you give away this data you’re giving a company the ability to access and manage you, not the other way around.”

Breitbart News reported in January that Max Eliaser, an Amazon software-development engineer, was quoted in a post published on Medium that Amazon’s home-security camera company Ring should be “shut down immediately.”

Eliaser stated in the article: “The deployment of connected home security cameras that allow footage to be queried centrally are simply not compatible with a free society. The privacy issues are not fixable with regulation and there is no balance that can be struck. Ring should be shut down immediately and not brought back.”

Ring, which develops video doorbells and home security systems, was acquired by Amazon in 2018 and has faced numerous privacy issues in recent years. Many of the issues related to the company’s agreements with law enforcement agencies and hackers gaining access to users’ devices.

Breitbart News reported in December 2019 that owners of Amazon Ring home security cameras reported incidents of their camera’s being hacked. Owners of the cameras in Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, and Texas all reported that hackers accessed their cameras and used their speakers to subject them to racial abuse, encourage children to engage in destructive behavior, and even demanded a ransom in Bitcoin.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address lucasnolan@protonmail.com

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