Privacy activists issue warning over Amazon’s voice-controlled ‘style assistant’
The Amazon Echo Look takes full length photos and videos on voice command and uses “machine learning algorithms” to select the best choice between outfits. The device also keeps track of users’ previous looks in what the tech giant calls a "personal lookbook." All photos and videos taken on the Echo Look are stored in the cloud.
The device is activated when the ‘wake word’ is detected, according to Amazon. However, the microphone is always listening unless physically switched off.
The wake word, as with the Amazon Echo, the firm’s voice-controlled intelligent personal assistant, is ‘Alexa’.
“Echo Look uses the same on-device keyword spotting as Echo, to detect the wake word and only the wake word,” a company spokesperson told TechCrunch. “When the wake word is detected, the light ring turns blue to indicate that Alexa is streaming audio to the AWS cloud.”
News of the AI-powered fashionista has resulted in a number of security concerns being flagged, particularly in the wake of high-profile data dumps by WikiLeaks.
Last month the website claimed to reveal the CIA’s use of smart devices as ‘hacking tools’.
WikiLeaks Editor Julian Assange posted a bleak tweet on the state of modern day society, referring to the Echo Look.
“This [is] how it ends,” Assange said.
This how it ends. Not with a bang but with fears about failing the social competition of fashion choice. Lame. https://t.co/LSeXvixJTc— Julian Assange (@JulianAssange) April 27, 2017
Techno-sociologist Zeynep Tufekci said the product needs to come with clear regulations on data use, describing the advancement as “sleepwalking into surveillance capitalism.”
Sleepwalking into surveillance capitalism, which is evolving into data and computation driven authoritarianism, one cool service at a time.— Zeynep Tufekci (@zeynep) April 26, 2017
Tufekci raised concerns over the possible far-reaching analysis that data from the Echo Look could provide.
With this data, Amazon won't be able to just sell you clothes or judge you. It could analyze if you're depressed or pregnant and much else. pic.twitter.com/irc0tLVce9— Zeynep Tufekci (@zeynep) April 26, 2017
An always-listening, always-on voice activated camera designed for your bedroom. What could go wrong? https://t.co/ulrEMK4wNO— Molly Wood (@mollywood) April 27, 2017
Amazon just confirmed that the videos and photos recorded by the Echo Look will be stored 'indefinitely.' https://t.co/sjpZymsfs3— Kate Crawford (@katecrawford) April 26, 2017
The announcement has been met with excitement by some fashionistas.
Seriously, the Amazon Echo Look is giving me some MAJOR "Clueless" feels. Now I can finally be Cher Horowitz. pic.twitter.com/sbngRxhwto— جين بابيان ✨ (@byJaneBabian) April 27, 2017
5 minutes ago: Why would anyone trust Amazon Echo Look to tell you your clothing choices were wrong?— Aaron Levie (@levie) April 27, 2017
Now: Remembers this photo. pic.twitter.com/zdQop0pa6g
Amazon Echo reached more than 8 million sales earlier this year, less than two years after the first products went on general release.
Amazon Look retains features of the original Echo speaker, allowing users to ask Alexa to also read the news, get traffic estimates and play music.
The Echo speaker came under the spotlight earlier this year after a WikiLeaks ‘Vault 7’ data dump revealed files that alleged the CIA use everyday smart televisions and mobile devices to secretly gather audio and information.
While Alexa wasn’t mentioned in the leaked files many online users interrogated the device in the wake of the WikiLeaks revelations, with some intriguing results.