PRIVACY GROUPS have spoken out about Amazon Go and said that the cashier-less shopping initiative takes privacy invasion to a "whole new level".
Amazon Go was launched earlier this week and touted by the online retail giant as a "checkout-free shopping experience made possible by the same types of technologies used in self-driving cars: computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning."
What this basically means is that you're being tracked, with Amazon's 1,800-foot Seattle retail space tracking customers to see which items they pick up, look at and decide not to buy.
"Our Just Walk Out technology automatically detects when products are taken from or returned to the shelves and keeps track of them in a virtual cart," Amazon added. "When you’re done shopping, you can just leave the store. Shortly after, we’ll charge your Amazon account and send you a receipt."
This, naturally, hasn't gone down well with some, including Privacy International (PI). Speaking to the INQUIRER, Dr Richard Tynan, technologist at PI, has sounded the alarm bells about the initiative, which he claims will use invasive technologies to bombard shoppers with online ads.
"Retailers have long been the driver of many privacy invasive technologies. Whether it is to better place advertisements or to track shoppers' movements, understanding intimate details about consumers' habits by collecting personal data is their goal. The new Amazon Go store will take this to a whole new level," he said.
"Imagine you decide to put a product back on the shelf and go home to see online advertisements for the supposed benefits of this over the product you actually bought. Imagine you examine a product for a long period of time but decide not to buy it and are then bombarded with advertisements for that product online.
"With advances in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and machine vision comes greater requirements for legal and consumer protection for us in the physical world. The outdated premise of data protection is that people come to technology. In today's world, technology is hidden in our environment and in everyday objects.
Tynan adds that Amazon needs to be open about the negative aspects of its Go shop's technology so that customers' are aware of what data they are giving up in order to get a quick sandwich.
"Companies who manufacture and promote this technology need to be upfront about the consequences, including negatives, for the societies in which they operate. Societies must understand not only the surface features of new technology but also the unexpected consequences of environments and services being dependent on personal data.
"Privacy International is actively engaged in driving this new approach by requesting all data under the control of companies, including on our own devices which we have very limited control over."
Echoing Tynan's remarks, the Open Rights Group (ORG) has also called for Amazon to be upfront about how they are going to use the data that it slurp through its Go initiative, adding that this information should be binned once consumers' have left the shop.
"The convenience of such a store is very attractive but shouldn’t come at the expense of privacy. Amazon need to be very clear about how they are going to use the data that will be generated," a spokesperson for ORG told INQ.
"Amazon will need to collect a certain amount of data to ensure that correct payment is made and to prevent theft but we’d expect them to give people the option of opting out from having their movements intensely tracked."
While some have raised concerns about personal privacy, others have voiced concerns about what a cashier-less shop means for retail workers, which make up six per cent of the US workforce in total.
"There’s no reason that data about your movements shouldn't be deleted once you’ve left the store and your goods have been paid for.”
However, Amazon has told the INQUIRER that its Go initiative will employ as many people as traditional retail outlets. µ
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