Thursday, April 27, 2017

Alexa, do I really need you?

We have one of Amazon's Echo things in the kitchen, and about the only time we use it is when we accidentally say "Alexa" and she wants to know what we want.

Occasionally I come across an article listing things to ask Alexa, but I get it confused with our new cable remote that I can also speak to. I mostly don't talk to inanimate things.

Now Amazon wants to enter our bedroom to watch us.
Amazon announced the Echo Look. Motherboard explains: The newly announced Echo Look is a virtual assistant with a microphone and a camera that's designed to go somewhere in your bedroom, bathroom, or wherever you get dressed. Amazon is pitching it as an easy way to snap pictures of your outfits to send to your friends when you're not sure if your outfit is cute, but it's also got a built-in app called StyleCheck that is worth some further dissection. [...] 
"All photos and video captured with your Echo Look are securely stored in the AWS cloud and locally in the Echo Look app until a customer deletes them," a spokesperson for the company said. "You can delete the photos or videos associated with your account anytime in the Echo Look App." Motherboard also asked if Echo Look photos, videos, and the data gleaned from them would be sold to third parties; the company did not address that question.
I'm not sure Jeff Bezos wants to look at my stained athletic socks, so I'm going to suggest that you don't need this thing.

Two law professors have just published a piece questioning all of this.
While it is easier to see the immediate benefits from these butlers, understanding the long-term risks, while harder to see, is key. No one likes a snooping butler, especially one that profits at your expense. So before buying a personal butler, ask yourself whether you know exactly how it will be using your data, how objective its recommendations will be, and if and when its interests diverge from yours. Until then, perhaps turn off the lights the old-fashioned way.
Alexa, publish this blog post for me, will you?

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