Amazon's new virtual stylist raises privacy concerns

The newly unveiled "Echo Look" is meant act as a personal stylist.

ByABC News
April 28, 2017, 1:00 PM

— -- Continuing with its Echo line of digital home assistants, Amazon on Wednesday unveiled "Echo Look," a personal stylist device with a built-in camera that is meant to help people choose what outfit to wear. But the idea of a home assistant with a camera has alarmed some privacy advocates, with many on Twitter this week reacting skeptically to the e-commerce giant's announcement.

While it currently has no official release date, the Echo Look is said to have a camera that connects with a user's smartphone to give a real time rear-view when a person turns their back to it. It is also said to allow a user to snap selfies of outfits and catalog them to remember the last time a particular outfit was worn.

It also reportedly uses an algorithm that compares two outfits and decides which looks better.

But as the announcement was made, several privacy advocates on Twitter warned about the privacy ramifications of new device.

The company said that the camera would only be active when it is manually turned on, and that a light and in some cases audio cues would alert a user when it is on.

But artificial intelligence experts pointed out on Twitter that a full-length picture of someone in the same place every day could give Amazon a lot of information.

These experts said this would allow the company to ascertain a user's skin color, size and measurements, if a person was pregnant and what clothing brands someone likes.

"All this to sell you more clothes. We are selling out to surveillance capitalism that can quickly evolve into authoritarianism for so cheap," tweeted Zeynep Tufekci, an associate professor at the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina.

Amazon described in a statement to ABC News the measures it says were taken to make the new device "secure."

"Amazon takes customer privacy seriously and we have taken measures to make Echo Look secure," the statement read. "These include hardware control via the mic/camera off button, disallowing third party application installation on the device, rigorous security reviews, and encryption of images and communication between Echo Look, the Echo Look app, and Amazon servers."

Related Topics