Amazon Echo Look – online privacy concerns

Heidi Finigan | Last Updated:

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Amazon Echo Look - online privacy concerns

Amazon recently announced a new device to partner with its Echo personal assistant: Echo Look, which Amazon wants to put in your bedroom to help you decide what clothes to wear.

Innocently pitched as a “virtual assistant” to help you dress yourself better, Echo Look promises to improve your style by capturing pictures and videos of you in various outfits, then letting an AI decide if you look good or not. Called “StyleCheck,” the feature will store this media on Amazon’s AWS cloud service indefinitely until you ask them to delete it. It offers the capability of sending these photos and videos to friends “when you’re not sure if your outfit is cute,” since your phone’s camera isn’t good enough for that, apparently. It also comes with a microphone, because you totally need sound in order to make a 100% visual decision, and hey, if we’re already taking pictures and videos of you, we might as well grab audio too.

Ignoring the obvious invasion of privacy here, it’s questionable whether an AI can even be considered reliable for something so subjective as whether someone looks good in an outfit or not. We’ve traditionally trusted AI with data analysis and computation, and left the more subjective or instinctual tasks to humans. For example, in August of last year, a startup called Beauty.ai ran a beauty contest using over 600,000 user-submitted selfies, then picked the winners based on an algorithm, and the result was mediocre at best. Does anyone really want to trust a computer when it comes to how they look in a particular outfit?

When asked whether these pictures and videos will be shared with other third parties, Amazon provided a carefully-worded answer: they “do not provide any personal information to advertisers or to third party sites that display our interest-based ads.” This statement sounds good, but it actually only assures the reader that their info won’t be shared with advertisers – they leave the door open for other purposes, such as data analytics, facial recognition, or even Amazon’s own internal groups. The fact that Amazon didn’t rule out <i>all</i> third parties completely should be a cause for concern.

Unfortunately, Echo Look is yet another attempt by big business to grab the few remaining pieces of your privacy that they don’t already have. One can only hope that this initiative never gets off the ground, and sends a clear message to tech manufacturers that we don’t need more invasions of our privacy.

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