Alexa, Ring, and Astro: Where’s my privacy, Amazon?

This year’s Amazon hardware event was quite a doozy. The Seattle-based company showcased an updated health band with a nutritionally-guided personalized shopping service, a flying security drone, more indoor and outdoor cameras, and an autonomous sentry robot. 

All of which are powered in some way by AWS machine learning and left me thinking about one word: privacy.

Do I really want all of these products in my own home and as part of my life? Admittedly, there is a certain appeal to Amazon’s pitch of having their technology live in the background, transparently, to enable our real-world experiences better. The best user interface is the effectively invisible one, like the ever-watchful and ready-to-talk computers on shows like Star Trek. They’re benevolent AIs that always look out for us, keeping us out of harm’s way while accepting our queries and commands.

Granted, I’ve already accepted a lot of these devices into my life. I have five Alexa-compatible smart speakers positioned in different parts of the house, so I have full coverage to deal with home automation issues. I also have a Google Home in the kitchen, plus multiple Siri-enabled mobile devices (Watch, iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple TV). And of course, I have webcams for doing Zoom calls and the like on my Mac workstation and on my iPad and iPhone — all of which aren’t on unless I want them to be, presumably.

But so far, I have resisted the notion of having cameras all over the place, peering inside the home’s interior spaces. Sure, I have some Ring devices guarding the front of the house, but there’s nothing recording inside.

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