Amazon Echo Look: Super or Scary?

Take our poll, and tell us if it’s the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it.

Echo look

I'm very well aware that I'm getting old.

I listen to myself on the "Smashing Security" podcast railing against the latest security screw-up in the Internet of Things, or read articles I've written expressing bafflement as to why people would share so freely on social media, and ask myself... is it me? Am I the problem?

Am I just of a generation that's living in the past and doesn't recognise the benefits of having a virtual digital assistant that's listening to all the conversations in my house is a good thing, rather than a spooky echo of Orwell's 1984?

My reaction when I heard that Amazon had added a camera to the next generation of its Alexa-powered Echo device was a mixture of revulsion and head-shaking inevitability. After all, I had half-joked with Paul Ducklin on a "Smashing Security" podcast just the week before that devices like Google Home would soon have a built-in camera.

So, you can probably guess what I think of the new Echo Look from Amazon, the self-described "Hands-Free Camera and Style Assistant".

But what's more important is what you think. Do you like the idea of in-home digital assistants having a built-in camera or is it the end of civilisation as we know it? Take the poll below, and share your thoughts in the comments below.

What's your reaction to the Amazon Echo Look?

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9 Responses

  1. wally

    April 28, 2017 at 2:09 pm #

    ..and I still use a key in my car, easier, and secure.

    • Chris in reply to wally.

      May 2, 2017 at 9:27 am #

      Well, until it gets cloned either physically or by sniffing the unlock signal.

    • Mark Jacobs in reply to wally.

      May 2, 2017 at 12:32 pm #

      Seriously?!?
      https://www.wired.com/2016/08/oh-good-new-hack-can-unlock-100-million-volkswagens/

  2. Matthew Parkes

    May 2, 2017 at 9:38 am #

    What can I say, like everyone on here I am concerned at the level of intrusion these big companies are getting into our homes and lives, not content with eavesdropping for want of a better term on our browsing habits to determine what type of advertising to spam us with next but now as you say they are going to be watching us.

    Now I can hardly talk, I have an Amazon Echo or at least my wife does and she loves it, it is used for playing back music predominantly with the occasional weather/news enquiry and the odd web enquiry. What I will say is that some of the obvious safety features are switched on like preventing the Echo to make purchases via our Amazon account should it misunderstand a request or pick up on something coming from the TV etc… I also insist it is switched off when not in use, I do not want it permanently listening to conversations being had.

    Now My wife and I have nothing to hide and I am sure there are no Amazon staffers sitting there listening to our most boring and uninteresting conversations on a daily basis but I am sure things are recorded and probably for posterity and then the government or law enforcement can request a copy of this data legally and sift through it for signs of terrorism or criminal intent. Again I imagine if we didn't turn it off then the thought of some grubby pimply government it boffin getting off on some of our embarrassing conversations doesn't fill me with warm fuzzy thoughts.

    In addition the main risk and fear is that it gets into the hands of criminals who hack into Amazon systems or have managed to get my credentials. Can we trust the staff at Amazon who have access to it or even the third party marketers who it is sold to in order to target us with more spam. And yes we put up with it because we are getting some facilities/services for free, although with Amazon I don't know as we pay for our Prime subscription (although not sure its worth it based on the benefits – but that's another conversation).

    So in summary as a hands free tool to initiate playing music and getting news and weather and traffic reports etc, would it not be better to go back to old school radio and tv – probably yes, but I have the benefit of hindsight into the pitfalls of IoT devices thanks to the likes of you Graham and your contributors and others in the Security Industry in which I also work, but for the uninitiated masses, they salivate over the next new bit of kit not realising in fact that rather cynically the company behind the device have not designed this as a brilliant new time and effort saving device, it has been made to make them money not only in direct sales but by collecting and sharing all the data it records and by buying one and signing up to use its services you are blindingly giving your permission to have your daily lives exfiltrated legally, who needs to be a hacker any more?

  3. Trantor

    May 2, 2017 at 10:39 am #

    I'm even more mature than your good self, and in the IT security profession. The idea of an "assistant" active in the home is not totally out of the question for me; I just need a compelling reason to have one. However, having one with a camera would be a step too far. For those living alone, with a desire for a second opinion however its provided, may be welcomed. I can see this evolving into augmented reality where Alexa will say you like a bag of spuds in that outfit but if you buy this one – queue AR overlay – you'll look fantastic! Just say "buy now" and you'll have it tomorrow! Depends how much you trust Amazon!

  4. Tony Cole

    May 2, 2017 at 11:27 am #

    What's ridiculous to me is that if you told most people you were going to mount a camera and microphone in every room in their house, they'd have a fit. Tell them you're giving them this cool new device for every room in their house which is always listening and watching to provide help and they'd be thrilled. You'd likely even find one in the main bathroom.

  5. Mark Jacobs

    May 2, 2017 at 12:52 pm #

    What's worrying is, if certain people like the privacy of their homes so much that they sometimes parade around naked, and the next day they get targeted advertising for penis enlargement pills. Companies already belittle us into buying their wares. This is far worse! Who the heck is watching this stuff!?! It all reminds me of episode 1 of season 3 of Black Mirror by Charlie Brooker, where implants in the eye enable others on the internet to see what you are seeing, and then rate your experience out of 5 stars. Portentous stuff!

  6. Pete

    May 2, 2017 at 8:16 pm #

    I know people to whom life without Facebook is inconceivable. Apparently, there are billions of them. Notwithstanding the numbers in this poll (at the time of this writing, 86.6% of respondents think it's not going to end well), Amazon's idea is just stupid enough to have mass appeal.

    I'll never let such a device into my home, but that won't keep me from buying more Amazon stock. The stupidity of the masses has made many fortunes. This is probably no exception.

  7. Michael Ponzani

    May 4, 2017 at 11:08 pm #

    There's an article on Lew Rockwell.com by Jack Parry or Perry about all this spying. It is really scary.

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