Just before Memorial Day, Amazon customer and Microsoft engineer Brandon Jackson experienced a concerning incident involving his Amazon Alexa and an Amazon delivery driver. The driver claimed to have heard Jackson’s doorbell make a racist remark, resulting in Jackson being unable to access his smart home through his Alexa device. Jackson disputed the driver’s claim, pointing out that he and many Amazon drivers in his area share the same race, and he had security footage showing the driver wearing headphones at the time.
Jackson’s primary means of interacting with his smart devices was through his Amazon Echo, so being locked out of his Amazon account raised concerns about potential illicit access. After speaking with Amazon representatives, he discovered that the accusation was made against his doorbell. Amazon took action to ensure the safety of its drivers during the investigation, but Jackson questioned why his entire smart home system had to be rendered unusable based on a single accusation.
While Jackson had alternative systems in place to continue using his smart home, he highlighted that the average user may not have the same resources or technical knowledge. This incident raises concerns about overreliance on tech giants and the ownership and control of connected devices and the data they generate. Purchasing a device does not guarantee ownership or the right to use it without ongoing corporate permission that can be revoked.
This case raises questions about the basis and circumstances under which permission to use smart devices can be revoked. It is important to consider whether this incident is an isolated occurrence or a sign of a future where customers may regularly face restrictions on their devices for various reasons. It highlights the potential for disruption in people’s lives due to trivial misunderstandings or disputes with customer service representatives.
In light of these issues, it may be worth evaluating the necessity of making every day-to-day item “smart” and advocating for the availability of alternatives that do not rely on constant connectivity and corporate permission. The incident serves as a reminder to reassess our dependence on a few tech giants and to advocate for consumer rights and control over the devices we purchase.