Amazon is one of the world’s largest sources of Big Data. They have a massive customer pool of 152 million, that they’ve used big data to customize shopping solutions for over a decade. They use big data to create a unique personalized shopping experience that builds loyalty with their customers.
This loyalty leads their customers to Amazon’s physical products such as Amazon Echo, Fire TV Stick and Fire HD Tablets. What not everyone realizes is the new amount of user information they’re providing to Amazon to make their data pool even larger.
With Fire HD tablets Amazon has custom built a version of the Android operating system to record how the user uses their device and send that information back to Amazon. Now they know how exactly you’re using your technology which will undoubtedly help them design more technologies with the user’s feedback directly in mind.
With Amazon Fire Stick TV they learn you viewing habits. They know which providers you use, which services you prefer, and the genre of video you prefer to watch.
Lastly the most controversial is the Amazon Echo. They’ve branded the Echo as an “Artificially Intelligent” speaker that allows you to get news, weather, shop online, listen to music, etc. Now to call this artificial intelligence is really not the right term because it’s all preprogramed but that’s how the industry has branded things like Alexa (Amazon), Siri (Apple), and Google Assistant.
The Echo comes in a variety of shapes and sizes and one even as affordable as $49 making it an ideal holiday gift. All of the devices that feature Alexa have a long range microphone that allows the device to hear and understand you even from another room.
Are you starting to worry yet? You should.
Because today after an initial decline and minimal pushback, Amazon granted authorities access to a defendant’s in a murder case Echo device. Now the defendant gave Amazon permission to release this to authorities so it doesn’t seem there is too much foul play yet but this does prove one thing.
Amazon is archiving every single thing that these devices hear. This murder case dates back to November 2015. Millions of the devices have been sold already and Amazon can easily pull up the audio that speaker heard which could help prove a murder case from 18 months ago. Pretty wild.
Major companies such as Amazon, Apple, and Google are stockpiling data as quickly as they can save it. There have been very few documented cases where this data was distributed outside the company but here we have a real life example.
Amazon even has a service known as Amazon Web Services that allows smaller companies and organizations to collect big data by hosting their websites and applications on Amazon servers. In most contracts Amazon will also have access to this pool of data. My department at Penn is currently considering this. Our largest concern at the moment is the privacy and ownership of things such as student’s grades and incident reports. Now we have a revised contact with Amazon that refuses access to certain databases that we host with them but we’re still considering further measure to insure that information is kept private from Amazon.
Amazon, Google, and Apple are three major corporations of many that are collecting data this way. How much should we trust these companies to protect our first amendment rights? Many professors at the University of Pennsylvania will tell you that privacy doesn’t exist anymore. I’d agree that it is dramatically different from what it was ten years ago. Lets just hope hat the these major corporations have the best of intentions when it comes to our privacy.