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You might not be able to opt-out of Amazon's drone-based "surveillance as a service"

By mongeese · 25 replies
Jun 22, 2019
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  1. In the near future, Amazon could announce their recently patented “surveillance as a service” program that employs delivery drones to photograph houses as they fly by, checking for break-ins and thefts. Then your neighbor might sign up for it, and suddenly, every time a drone flies overhead, you’re acutely aware that you might be on camera.

    In a patent filed June 12, 2015, and approved June 4 this year, Amazon describes the next expansion of their growing smart security network, one that’s cheap and flexible – perfect for the mass market. Using cameras and potentially the odd tacked-on sensor, Amazon’s upcoming delivery drones will be available for hire, letting anyone pay a small fee for routine home security checks, be they hourly, daily, weekly or as needed. The images will be analyzed for abnormalities by an AI, before being sent to the property owner. In terms of security the deal sounds pretty good, but from the perspective of neighbors’ privacy, not so much.

    In their patent, Amazon says they can prevent privacy breaches through a combination of pre-image processing, post-processing, and by adjusting camera angles.

    It works roughly like this: the delivery drone makes its delivery, pops over to the nearby house, and positions itself so that the targeted house is directly in view. Using geofencing data, a combination of coordinates, property lines and satellite imagery, it automatically obscures the parts of the image it thinks would contain a neighbor’s house. It then takes the photo and crops out anything it wasn’t meant to capture, before sending the image to the cloud to be analyzed.

    Unfortunately, Amazon is known to be pretty bad at all that stuff. Their ‘Rekognition’ AI that determined 28 members of Congress as criminals comes to mind, as do claims of racial bias. As mentioned above, there were also incidents of Ring and Amazon employees sharing funny clips they lifted straight from people’s homes without their knowledge. What’s to say Amazon’s drone operators wouldn’t do the same?

    Amazon claims that drone-based security is harder to quietly disable, avoid or manipulate compared to traditional cameras, yet if they’re cropping things as aggressively as they need to, then the drone would have to be exceptionally lucky to spot someone in the act or glean useful information. Unless, of course, the drone operator uses the uncropped navigational camera feed to spot criminal activity, which opens further questions about operators snooping around. We’re in untested waters here, and though Amazon might find a path through, the start will be choppy.

    According to Amazon’s consumer chief Jeff Wilke, we’re still a few months out from drone deliveries. That would give Amazon enough time to poke the privacy advocates and see how loud they yell, before adding the requisite cameras to their recently revealed hybrid drone. Given the patent was only recently approved, however, it’s likely to be at least a year before any surveillance services become available if they do at all. Amazon has abandoned many patents before, including, tragically, massive drone motherships.

    Permalink to story.

  2. Skjorn

    Skjorn TS Maniac Posts: 345   +195

    Someone was spying on me and my friends on a boat at the lake with a drone. I told this girl to jump in and it will fly away.. sure enough, some creep on the dam was drone fapping.. I think I'll start taking a drone swatter (12ga)
  3. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 11,390   +5,018

    So how does the title play in at? For the article the title makes no sense.

    The footage of non service members would automatically be obscured.
    The service is not being forced on anyone.
  4. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 5,390   +3,779

    I don't buy their excuses .... soon you'll have your local police asking to review this in order to check up on you for God only knows what reasons. I'm with Skjorn and I'm headed out to Rural King to load up on ammo for my own 12 ga .... I like slugs but now days the eyesight isn't that great so #4 will work .... oh yeah, be sure to call in advance before coming down the driveway .....
  5. Skjorn

    Skjorn TS Maniac Posts: 345   +195

    Ohhh I think #4 would do just fine, Al. Roll 'em up.
    Impudicus likes this.
  6. p51d007

    p51d007 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,966   +1,230

    Here's the funny (sad) thing about all of this. WE ASKED FOR IT!
    The minute we click ok on the first TOS decades ago, we put in motion, what we have today.
    Of course with the doorbells, Sira/google/alexa...it's in the name of "security, safety & convenience".
    Eventually, you know good and well the deep state types (alphabet agencies) along with local authorities
    will be mining the data.
    Congrats! We will be in a surveillance state before ya know it. China has been the beta testers, and then once it works, they roll it out globally to make "your life easier".
    TempleOrion and Godel like this.
  7. QuantumPhysics

    QuantumPhysics TS Evangelist Posts: 1,240   +901

    Is it bulletproof?
  8. pcnthuziast

    pcnthuziast TS Evangelist Posts: 587   +196

    In larger picture, for humanity as a whole, the idea and construct of privacy won't exist forever.
    TempleOrion likes this.
  9. Wendig0

    Wendig0 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,146   +142

    Minority Report is starting to look like a documentary rather than a fictional movie.
  10. gollum21

    gollum21 TS Enthusiast Posts: 41   +14

    Can't wait to get my own drone and start having drone fights!
    TempleOrion likes this.
  11. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 3,993   +2,290

    gollum21 likes this.
  12. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 3,993   +2,290

    I'll blame it on the economics of the world.

    This is not unlike a traditional home security system. People get them because they are afraid that someone is going to steal something or break in, or perhaps as an early warning system for fire. While I might agree to something like that for fire protection, I do not agree with them for other uses. In fact, I once had a home security system sales person come to my door and she literally tried to scare me in to buying one. I sent her away without a sale partly because I was not going to be intimidated into buying one, and partly because I simply do not see the need for one.

    But if the underlying econmics change such that there is nothing to lose, although I think this is highly unlikely, then there would be nothing to surveil because there would be nothing to lose.

    The thing is if crApazon is surveiling your neighbor and you just happpen to get caught on film, then there is little you can do about it.

    Personally, much as I might like to think that crApazon will keep their word that they would obscure anything they have not been hired to surveil, I do not trust crApazon any more than I trust fakebook with something like this.

    Besides, who wants something like this buzzing your domicile? I sure don't. There is too much noise in my neighborhood as it is.
    TempleOrion likes this.
  13. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 14,963   +3,999

    No, this is absolutely nothing like the traditional home security. This is like having the cops ride down your street at various different intervals. As soon as they leave, people go back to doing exactly what they were doing before they came.

    This is another privacy invading, bordering on completely worthless, money grabbing, draconian scam, from "Bezos the Relentless".

    A traditional burglar alarm system is for all intents and purposes, completely passive with regards to maintaining your privacy.

    This scam should be an affront to anyone not suffering from severe device dependency issues, and an IQ over 60

    Just where exactly is your ivory tower located, Camelot?

    As far as FUD spreading, fear mongering, high pressure sales gorillas dressed in suits go, you should have experienced the literal cavalcade of "electricity salesmen" I have had to endure since, "freedom of choice" was signed into law. The bill allows people to choose who would provide the "pure electricity" part of their overall electric utility bill.

    I'm pretty sure there's no chance of that ever happening, since that bus left the Garden of Eden terminal many eons ago.

    Just think, there's virtually no limit to "the protection" you will be afforded, now that Google and Amazon are getting on a bit better. All they have to do is combine Google's face recognition software with Amazon's drone and "the skies are the limit" (pun intended), for the amount of "security" they'll be able to provide, to the uneducated, the intellectually challenged, and the unwilling alike.
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2019
  14. lexster

    lexster TS Maniac Posts: 466   +233

    Complete rubbish.
  15. roberthi

    roberthi TS Addict Posts: 406   +124

    Uh...Hell no! This is not just a privacy issue. This is a safety issue. I wouldn't want any drone operator flying by anyone's house photographing kids or whoever in their yards.
  16. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 3,993   +2,290

    So basically, we agree. :laughing:

    The home security system I was talking about was the monitored type. Privacy from a monitored system? When the cows come home, perhaps! :eyes:
    TempleOrion likes this.
  17. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 3,993   +2,290

    Invest in a "No Soliciting" sign!:laughing:
  18. Markoni35

    Markoni35 TS Booster Posts: 196   +93

    During communism, the Albanian president Enver Hoxha had interesting surveillance methods. He would ask teachers to question children about their home. What did their parents talk about. Or to write homework about what parents were saying.

    Then if the teacher would find any anti-regime statements, or anything even a bit suspicious, he was obligated to report it (if not, he was risking of being marked as anti-regime). The police would then arrest the parents and question them (usually by beat them up) until they admitted their "crimes". Then they would be sentenced to harsh punishments, sometimes even death. So the children were actually spying on their parents.

    You have probably never heard of Enver Hoxha. Or even a small country named Albania (which is nowadays the kingdom of crime and drugs) but their dictator was one of the worst that ever existed. Next to Albania was an area called Kosovo, part of Yugoslavia. Albanians were illegally escaping from Albania to Kosovo and continued to live there. Eventually a large number of them settled on Kosovo. And they were multiplying like rats. It was usual that they have 10 or 12 children. Eventually their population grew so large that they have decided to separate and form an independent country. Known as... well... Kosovo. That was about 20 years ago.

    Boy, would Enver Hoxha be jealous at nowadays "democratic" spying methods. Now every kid who owns a cellphone is spying on their parents. And grandparents. And neighbors. And friends. And strangers who pass by them. All in high-fidelity audio, photo and video. That's just beyond Enver Hoxha's imagination.

    And those new drones... wow. Dictator Enver would be so proud of Amazon. Maybe it's no accident that both Amazon and Albania start with the same letter. Which next method of invading the privacy will they come up with?
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2019
  19. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 14,963   +3,999

    You're invested heavily in some serious misconceptions about what "alarm monitoring" actually is..

    A good old fashioned "burglar alarm system", is being monitored, but absolutely isn't spying on you. The entire extent of "it's "invasion of privacy", is knowing when you're in or out of the house, and the time of those occurrences. That's it, honest..

    The only caveat, is that the security cameras have to be on their on CCTV DVR. Done properly, you have two entirely different and discreet systems. The alarm company calls the police when a sensor is tripped. "Sensors" are simple devices with very specific purposes. One type will tell you when a window has been opened, (a simple magnetic switch), another hears glass breaking, and another, "passive infrared' detects motion". Meanwhile the DVR records video of the people in your house. You burn a DVD of the intrusion, and hand that over to the police.

    Now, if you have to have the "latest and greatest", alarm sensor monitoring with integrated video being uploaded to the web, then yes, your privacy is completely gone. You might as well invite Alexa and Siri over after dinner for a threesome.
  20. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 14,963   +3,999

    I think, (or possibly have been led to believe), that was more or less prevalent throughout the USSR, and not limited to Albania. You may be correct that it was used more heavily there than other countries in the Soviet block, but being from the US, anything I know is anecdotal at best. (or at worst).

    I've never heard of Mr. Hoxha, but references to "the Albanian mob" frequently occur in the CBS police drama, "Blue Bloods", which is set in New York City. One could argue that research has been done to determine which crime syndicates are operating in NYC, to add accuracy and credibility in the storyline.. References are also often made to the "Russian mob", and if the show is to be believed, their center of operations is in the "Brighton Beach area of the city.

    Of course those are TV stories, and I certainly sympathize who anyone who has lived though the last couple of decades in that war torn region. Didn't the US capture, lock up, prosecute, or kill some of the corrupt government officials during the war?

    There was one spefic despot from Serbia (?), who garnered a great deal of press for his corruption and tendency to commit war crimes? It wasn't Hoxha though, but the name does escape me.

    Here's the results from a Google search of, "war crimes in Serbia":


    The Yogoslavs managed to down one of these: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_F-117_Nighthawk during our assistance campaigns in the area.
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2019
  21. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 3,993   +2,290

    And knowing when you are in and out of your house is something that would be very valuable information to someone engaging in nefarious activity.

    After all, the integrity of any "security" service is solely dependent on those who tend it.

    If you would feel "safe" that someone knows whether you are home or not, more power to you!
  22. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 14,963   +3,999

    @wiyosaya You should probably talk to a professional about your digital-age hyper-paranoia.

    But then again, I live in the inner city, and you live in an ivory tower in Camelot, so what could I possibly know?

    BTW In my lowly single person household, I can set the alarm for "away" while I'm sleeping. Plus there's always "bypass" options which can be used to simulate being out of the house in the middle of the day..

    I can't wait until you get old enough to apply for seniors programs. You'll be mailing copies of your Social Security income, your birth certificate, and copies of your driver's license, to utilities and various government agencies. You'll have to provide them with enough information to steal your identity.

    I most likely won't be around to see it, but your nervous breakdown will likely prove entertaining to those around you
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2019
  23. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 3,993   +2,290

    @captaincranky Aren't you the one that has the security system? Talk about hyper-paranoia.:laughing:
  24. mailpup

    mailpup TS Special Forces Posts: 7,401   +627

    No more personal comments please. Thank you.
    wiyosaya likes this.
  25. HyPeroxya

    HyPeroxya TS Enthusiast Posts: 86   +10

    You burn a DVD of the intrusion, and hand that over to the police.

    LOl the 1990s called and want their SVCD's back. NO they link the doorlock and drone system, so that the drone can enter your palace, and start surveiling, I,t then does face-recog of any perps, and can then call the Police/Amazon security drone armed with a Non-lethal taser. RoboCop "comply! or ..."

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