Amazon Astro: ‘Privacy Nightmare’ in R2D2-Cute Package

Astro—Amazon’s new domestic security robot—is already attracting big criticism. Aside from the questions of how well it’ll do its advertised job, people think their privacy is at risk.

Astro is a “privacy nightmare,” says one Amazon engineer. “The in-home security proposition [is] laughable,” quips another soon-to-be ex-friend of Bezos.

AWS Builder Community Hub

And worry that Amazon Astra integrates with the neighborhood snitchfest that is the Ring doorbell. In today’s SB Blogwatch … errm … I, for one, welcome our new Alexa-enabled overlords.

Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment. Not to mention: Heads—I win.

Bad Robot

What’s the craic? Matthew Gault, Joseph Cox, Jason Koebler and Jordan Pearson report—“Leaked Documents Show How Amazon’s Astro Robot Tracks Everything You Do”:

Buying something from Amazon
Amazon’s new robot called Astro is designed to track the behavior of everyone in your home. [But its] person recognition system is heavily flawed, according to two sources who worked on the project.

“The person detection is unreliable at best, making the in-home security proposition laughable,” a source who worked on the project said. … Another [said] “It’s a disaster that’s not ready for release … a privacy nightmare that is an indictment of our society.” [They] also corroborated that Astro’s facial recognition abilities perform poorly, which is concerning for a device designed mainly to follow people around and determine if they’re a stranger.

Amazon’s programmers … determined the optimal distances Astro should interact with customers from. For example, during most times it should be “socially distant.” … However, “when a user is buying something from Amazon, the device knows the [screen] needs to be … 40 centimeters away” [16 inches] from the customer.

It gets worse. Hamish Hector has—“Astro robot could be a ‘dangerous’ smart home device”:

Too much personal data
Even before [this leak] consumers would have been worried about Amazon Astro from a privacy perspective. It’s one thing to have an Amazon Echo in your living room, it’s another to have a device that roams around your home.

Astro will be tracking you quite a bit more than those devices and will have to store a lot of data to work effectively. … Astro needs to create an accurate map of your home and mark out “choke points” where it is likely to bump into a human.

This means the robot will learn where you congregate, how you move around and will be vigilantly scanning those areas with its cameras … and will store visual ID information to recognise you. … For some people this will be too much personal data.

But it’s soooo cuuuute! Lucas Ropek pays attention to the man behind the curtain—“Astro Robot Is an Invasive Spy”:

Creepy and useless
The $1,000 bot … is supposed to be a goofy domestic helper reminiscent of R2D2. [Astro] is, in reality … a privacy nightmare.

[It] is, on the outside … adorable. On the inside, however, Astro’s … devoted mostly to scooping up and analyzing as much of your personal information as possible.

When it meets someone whose face it hasn’t yet stored in its database, it proceeds to stalk them around the house, collecting and storing data on them, until told to stop. Fun!

The robot is also built to be paired with Amazon Ring, the company’s odious home security apparatus that doubles as an informal surveillance network for police departments across the country. … All of this makes buying the bot sound like both a creepy and useless exercise, a little like strapping motorized wheels to a bulky camcorder and letting it awkwardly roll around your home.

Wake up, sheeple! peppepz likens it to boiling a frog:

It's unbelievable
Why would you trust Amazon—and therefore hackers, police and politicians—with the most private of your personal information, i.e., whatever happens inside the walls of your home, all the time? It’s unbelievable that, step by step, we have arrived to this.

Yeah, but look where we started from. u/1_p_freely tells us what’s funny:

Violate people's privacy
You know what’s funny? All of the TV shows and pop culture from the 80s that explored a world with domestic robots never conceived that they would inevitably be used by corporations to violate people’s privacy or by governments to skirt the 4th and 5th amendments.

Speaking of the 1980s, 1984 wasn’t supposed to be a how-to guide. Arcanum Five is having none of it:

Be very, very worried
We were supposed to read about the telescreen in Winston’s home that received and transmitted simultaneously and be very, very worried about that kind of invasive technology—and the people behind it.

We were not supposed to say “I want one! And a smaller one for the kitchen! And one for the bedroom! And one for each child’s room! And one that fits in my pocket!”

But is this “news” actually news? @BeccaCaddy has a feeling she speaks for many:

Totally not-at-all-juicy
Am I the only one who thinks the ‘leaked reports’ about Astro … are the least surprising and totally not-at-all-juicy details ever? We’ve all heard of Amazon, right?

Wait. Pause. u/horseren0ir doesn’t get it:

So it doesn’t even vacuum? It just follows you around spying on you?

Perhaps we’re all dancing around the real answer? This Anonymous Coward cuts to the chase:

**** off, Bezos.

Meanwhile, are you, like me, Sorely Vexed?

My dogs would instantly perceive the threat to their livelihoods and yeet this thing over the garden wall.

And Finally:

Tails—you lose

Previously in And Finally

You have been reading SB Blogwatch by Richi Jennings. Richi curates the best bloggy bits, finest forums, and weirdest websites … so you don’t have to. Hate mail may be directed to @RiCHi or [email protected]. Ask your doctor before reading. Your mileage may vary. E&OE. 30.

Image sauce: Mimi7789 (via Fanpop)

Richi Jennings

Richi Jennings is a foolish independent industry analyst, editor, and content strategist. A former developer and marketer, he’s also written or edited for Computerworld, Microsoft, Cisco, Micro Focus, HashiCorp, Ferris Research, Osterman Research, Orthogonal Thinking, Native Trust, Elgan Media, Petri, Cyren, Agari, Webroot, HP, HPE, NetApp on Forbes and Bizarrely, his ridiculous work has even won awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors, ABM/Jesse H. Neal, and B2B Magazine.

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