Service of Amazon Moving into Your Home & Hotel: American Passivity is Creepy

July 15th, 2019

Categories: Passivity, Surveillance, Technology

Photo: forum.phish.net

Get the feeling that Big Brother is closing in and that our lives are under an increasingly powerful magnifying glass while we join in like gleeful children without weighing the ramifications? Recently I wrote about Walmart’s gaining access to homes when no one’s there to deliver groceries to the fridge. In June 2015 I wrote “Service of strangers knowing more about you than your family does.” Today I cover Amazon’s plan to “get more people using its services and locked into its Alexa ecosystem,” as Christopher Mims wrote in The Wall Street Journal.

In “Amazon’s Plan to Move In to Your Next Apartment Before You Do –The tech giant has figured out a way to get millions of its smart speakers into homes without consumers lifting a finger, as property managers bring in Alexa to manage tenants,” Mims reported that already 25 percent of Americans own some kind of smart speaker, the lion’s share belonging to Amazon.

Amazon’s Alexa-controlled Echo speaker. Photo: amazon.com

The brand’s Alexa Smart Properties team, a little known part of its Alexa division, is “working on partnerships with homebuilders, property managers and hoteliers to push millions of Alexa smart speakers into domiciles all across the U.S.” The division offers hardware and software at a discount as well as “new ways for property managers to harvest and use data.” Voice based wish lists and shopping habits of an increasing number of users will propel Amazon ahead of the competition in the rental and new home construction market according to Mims.

“Amazon has figured out a way to get into millions of homes without consumers ever having to choose its hardware and services in the first place.”

Alexa, which some call a personal assistant, responds to its owners voice and carries out tasks. Echo is one of Amazon’s hands-free, voice-controlled speakers.

Mims reminded readers that renters, buyers and hotel guests “may not be aware of all the parties monitoring their smart-home interactions.”

He continued “  ‘We envision a day when you can say ‘Hey Alexa, pay my rent,’ and it will transfer that money from a resident’s bank account,’ says PayLease chief executive Dirk Wakeham.”

Great: Now everyone knows your bank account number and how much rent you pay.

Thanks to smart phone technology, property managers also benefit: They save money, wrote Mims, because they can easily cut back air conditioning and heating in vacant apartments; provide access to units by contractors and change door locks.

Photo: yelp.com

Americans appear to be walking the plank on this one without blinking twice. I witnessed another example of passivity at a favorite store in the suburbs  last weekend. A long line at checkout developed an offshoot and nobody at the juncture said, “The line ends over there.” I went to customer service asking for a staffer to direct the line and sort out the confusion. The woman turned her back on me saying “I know.” Such acceptance makes me nervous. I fear that Americans are setting themselves up to be whacked for takeover by nefarious souls–like a golf ball on a tee.

Add surveillance to passivity and the sum is more than creepy, don’t you think? Are city folks more inclined than suburbanites to speak up in public? Do people signing up for or playing ball with smart speakers–installed where they will live or visit–realize what they are giving up? If your hotel room had a smart speaker/spy would you ask that it be disconnected?

Photo: pixels.com

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5 Responses to “Service of Amazon Moving into Your Home & Hotel: American Passivity is Creepy”

  1. BC Said:

    We are trapped. Our emails are saved somewhere by someone. Almost no privacy anymore. Most iPhones have a gps, so our visits are recorded. Beat the system- do not carry your iPhone, if you want privacy re. travel/visits. Against ALEXA, which can record all conversations. We are trapped!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    BC,

    For obvious reasons there are no statistics on love affairs outside of marriage but I wonder whether the numbers have dropped given the surveillance we’re all subject to.

    I just saw on Forbes.com [May 2019]: “According to a new survey by Nixplay, 60% of millennials think their phones are listening to them and then tailoring ads precisely to those conversations. Overall, 55% of Americans think that smartphones are spying on them, collecting data to customize ads.

    “And it’s not just a sneaking suspicion; they’re pretty sure.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnkoetsier/2019/05/31/55-of-americans-say-smartphones-spy-on-conversations-to-customize-ads/#51e3e60150bd

    As for leaving home without the phone, that can be a challenge. Apps like WAZE help you find where you’re going and frankly, smartphones give millions the freedom to leave their desks and move projects along while they aren’t in the office.

    You got it. We’re trapped.

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    A tony hotel might use surveillance to catch would be burglars, thieving maids, along w/an assortment of thugs and kidnappers who may spoil the stay of their pampered guests. It seems wise to leave the surveillance on while absent from ones room, with the condition one is in charge of turning it on and off at will. The knowledge that a hotel, or other public place has surveillance may go a long way towards discouraging criminal mischief.

    Privacy is highly valuable, but there are exceptions. It’s not necessarily public passivity that rules, but rather the philosophy of “better a live chicken than a dead duck!”

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    Yours is a good idea about keeping thieves at bay in hotels. If they were this altruistic, I wonder why the Journal article didn’t mention it. I fear you give them too much credit.

    In the most expensive hotels there’s enough staff to turn the gizmos off and on–though how will you know if they really are off? In moderate price to cheap hotels, I doubt it possible.

    I don’t know what else but passivity–and perhaps ignorance–to attribute to people piling on board the “here’s everything there is to know about me” train.

  5. Martha Takayama Said:

    The concept of AMazon being the ultimate espionage system in our lives makes all kinds of novels about the Cold War and any other spy thriller or horror movie seem like a fairy tale. It is blood-curdling. None of the supposed advantages in labor, cost or any aspect of one’s living merit this terrifying invasion of our minds and the fabric of our lives. When will it ever be reined in?

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