The bigger problem is that Amazon has set themselves up as the global arbiter of commerce, acting as a relatively neutral marketplace matching buyers to sellers worldwide, replacing many or most of the smaller commerce hubs and marketplaces that used to exist.
But once in that position, they exercise control over which products can be sold with the explicit intention of destroying competitors, replacing what would otherwise be a consumer favorite with their own inferior (according to market preference) alternate.
Everyone talks about monopolists and moral hazard and market manipulation, but Amazon seems to be the only modern company with the unique combination of dominance, confidence, and poor executive judgment to actually make it a consistent and overt company policy.
Banning competition you don't like is monoploistic for sure, but intentionally leaving counterfitters versions up and promoting them to searchers for those products so it damages your competitors brand is just straight up evil.
Home automation though is a great network effects play which is why amazon is doing this.
Big companies move slowly. I doubt Amazon could roll something like this out without 5+ years of development - possibly longer depending on how many times the department gets reorg'd.
The only history i'm aware of with google blocking app development on windows phone is when they sent C&Ds to people developing apps that stripped all the ads off youtube and played background audio. They also consistently take down and block android apps that violate the TOS in this way, and i don't see anybody saying that google is trying to kill android.
Maps worked fine with exactly the same Trident engine on the desktop. Moreover, if you change the user agent string, maps also worked fine with Windows Phone.
Google pulls this same bs with consoles as well, both PS4 and Xbox One (S/X) have a shitty HTML5 app that just doesn't fit well with rest of the system.
The background audio stuff, sure - that happened.
As long as this is true, Google is acting a lot more objectively than Amazon and its anti-competitive behavior.
Edit: This is being downvoted as well. Downvoted is for off-topic or inflammatory comments, not for comments you disagree with. If you disagree, leave a comment and explain why!
I don't doubt serving video to an audience as large as YouTube's is very expensive, but then with an audience as large as YouTube's there's a lot of money to be made. Bandwidth cost scales with views.
Surely YouTube's advantage is a network effect. They make it easy and quick to upload videos which then have the potential to be viewed millions or billions of times. Plenty of people use Vimeo, but there's not the same potential for virality.
If you want to agree with a downvoted comment, simply say you agree and give some reasons why. Don't mention the downvotes.
This is - in other words - not the first time Amazon and Google got in a spat like this, and probably ain't the last.
and amazon's rationale for not selling chromecasts was because the chromecast didn't support amazon prime video. which was, of course, a decision that amazon had made.
The proof is that there is now an Amazon Video app for the 3rd and 4th gen ATV. It was a surprise to almost everyone that Amazon/Apple ported Amazon Video to the 3rd Gen ATV after it had been discontinued for over a year.
Chromecast only offers an API if you already have a license to the Google Play Services, which does require Google’s permission.
And this license only allows sending Chromecast streams – it does not allow the FireTV to receive any.
karavelov was not asking about FireTV receiving Chromecast. Does Roku receive Chromecast streams? If so, what's stopping FireTV, if not then it's not really relevant to this "targeted discrimination" discussion.
Correct. That SDK requires proprietary Google Play Services to be present on a device to allow Chromecast to work.
As the same Prime Video app has to work on Kindle devices, LineageOS/CopperheadOS/other third party ROMs, and on Google Play Android devices, it can’t require Google Play Services.
Roku can not receive Chromecast streams, instead Roku, Twitch and several other companies have cooperated to work on a protocol competing with Chromecast, and Roku can receive those (as can a few of Amazon’s devices, and Amazon’s apps can send those streams as well).
You can learn more here: https://www.howtogeek.com/214943/how-to-use-your-roku-like-a...
It can have additional functionality that only works when Google Play Services is available. Plenty of media apps run on Kindle devices as well as branded Android, and support Chromecast on Android but not Kindle.
Now, Amazon probably doesn't want to make an app that has features that work on branded Android but not Kindle, but that is a choice.
Amazon spent billions trying to work around Google's anticompetitive bullshit (something the open source community had to do as well with microG), and I think at least at some point Google should be held responsible for their proprietary bullshit.
Had Google actually open sourced Chromecast, on all sides, you'd have seen much higher adoption.
That's why breakups or heavy regulation needs to seriously considered for these companies. They have too much market power and have shown a proclivity towards abusing it in anti-competitive ways. The market has developed, and I don't think leaving it unregulated is working anymore.
The most ironic or telling thing about Amazon is that Walmart has now become the punchy underdog in comparison.
But on a more realistic note, Walmart has been pushing to be more innovative in the e-commerce ecosystem, purchasing various companies and opening new storefronts (like Allswell) to be more competitive.
There's also the advantage that they have in physical location.
Anyways, Disclaimer, I work for Walmart but my views and comments are my own.
Maybe a little trade war between the giants would help them realize this is stupid.
Amazon has gone mostly unnoticed, and exerts their power without fear of reprisal.
All that will do is push people to search Amazon first cutting Google out of the loop altogether.
Amazon may yet become that. They are not that yet. Walmart has an infamous reputation for being brutal with suppliers. That reputation is far beyond anything Amazon has yet become known for. Walmart also completely dictates who has access to their vast retail system, which is still roughly three times the size of Amazon. Simply put, Walmart's system is radically more restrictive in terms of providing selling access, than Amazon - and it's three times larger.
Half of Amazon's retail sales aren't even from Amazon, they're from independent sellers, and that percentage has been perpetually increasing. For Walmart, it's almost entirely them controlling the sales.
It has merely become popular lately to point the fear cannons at Amazon. It's a cultural mania. Last week it was Walmart everyone was terrified of. In the late 1990s, every headline was breathlessly touting how Walmart was going to take over all of retail and put everyone else out of business.
Do they have any traction in the Chinese market? I could easily see that one of the Chinese market places could make a push for the world market and be a serious contender.
Isn't Alibaba trying to do that? (I don't know much about it, but do hear its name every once in a while)
For an example, Google has Chromecast/YouTube, Amazon has Amazon Fire/Prime Video, and they're less and less interoperable year upon year. This war creates an edge that Roku can squeeze into, which has support for every major vendor except Apple.
I find myself using Target and Walmart's websites more than ever before, not due to some moralistic protest, but simply because they're now more competitive and have products Amazon don't stock (like Google Home Mini for one example).
I find it interesting from a business perspective that Amazon chooses to push out competition, whereas most major retailers stock both own brand and branded products side by side, and profit no matter what the consumer selects.
I wonder when Alibaba US and EU will open. If Alibaba will sell anything and Amazon is protectionist, I can see that being Alibaba's edge.
I'm not going to buy those kinds of items sight unseen (go check out lumber at these places... I've gone through half a lift of pine boards to get a half dozen that are straight enough to use... And even more regular hardware, I want to put my tape on it first). But it's a struggle to find just where slightly oddball stuff might be located, if you don't know, and chances are you won't encounter somebody on staff that knows whst you're asking for and where it is in these gargantuan places.
Home centers actually stock things that are hard to buy online efficiently, too. e.g. You cannot buy a large metal rolling tool chest on Amazon at a reasonable price. Husky wins that battle definitively.
I seriously doubt it’s a win for the environment either. It cannot be more efficient for me to drive a vehicle to go pick up a small package than for UPS to put the package on a truck with hundreds of others.
Something to be said for supporting jobs in your community, keeping money in your area, bumping into people you might not have seen as much otherwise, etc. Stores can also be great for discovery. It's a lot easier to play with laptops at Best Buy than it is to research how the keyboard might feel online. In another product category, the local video store (we still have one!!) still beats out online in terms of being able to browse selection; I'll see frequent complaints from Netflix users about not being to find what's on.
No, but it’s a big part.
> Something to be said for supporting jobs in your community, keeping money in your area,
The comment here was about “major retailers”. If you want to buy from a local mom and pop shop, awesome. There are great reasons to do that. If you’re going to Best Buy, those reasons pretty much evaporate. That money doesn’t stay in the area and the jobs probably aren't better than UPS provides.
> bumping into people you might not have seen as much otherwise
No thanks. People say this because it sounds good and is hard to refute but I don’t care a bit about bumping into people at the store. I bump into someone I care about at a store less than once a year. Interacting with people in a retail store is not generally very rewarding. They’re almost always either salespeople or strangers. People in stores are better referred to as crowds.
> Stores can also be great for discovery. It's a lot easier to play with laptops at Best Buy than it is to research how the keyboard might feel online.
Sure. There are reasons to buy in person and this is a good one. “Need to physically hold to evaluate” is not a common attribute of most of the things I buy, though. And generally free return shipping solves for this when I do need it.
People keep repeating this "not Amazon.com!" response but it hasn't been true for at least a year. Go look on /r/boardgames, /r/pcmasterrace, or that dude with the $5K camera that received a literal brick. These people post their invoices that clearly say sold by Amazon.com and people call them liars.
Of course I can't know for sure if it was that or comingling.
Amazon definitely puts 3rd-party returns back in stock if it looks like still sellable as new - the seller help site says "We evaluate the condition of each returned item. If we determine that the item is sellable, we will return it to your inventory". So they probably do that for their own items as well.
I'm pretty happy with my Chromecast despite not having Amazon Prime Video.
How long before (presuming legislation continues to lag) we have
- Sonos and Alexa integration is available as a beta version.
- "Google Home Smart Assistant doesn’t work with your Sonos system natively" ("The Google Assistant will be supported on Sonos One in 2018") 
- Sonos has not yet released their implementation of AirPlay 2 which is what Apple's HomePod ecosystem will be relying on. Apparently Apple themselves are not quite ready with AirPlay 2.
The transit companies were also arbitrary.
I do generally just buy whatever's the cheapest price, and rarely look to see if the brand and seller name are the same (or if there's a seller with the same name as the brand). I'm kinda interested in paying more attention going forward though, so we'll see.
This is exactly my question too.
> I've probably spent an average of $50+/week on Amazon for the past several years and have never once received a counterfeit item.
I’ve been averaging >$2k/month for about ten years (combined personal and business purchases) and have never had a counterfeit product, even in categories that others claim have rampant counterfeits.
For example this charger is almost certainly fake: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071FZ9XP2/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_rEcN...
Already open. https://www.aliexpress.com/
Not usually enough to get hit on monopoly measures!
It's possible they don't think two monopolies doing illegal things to each other is a problem, or that it cancels out somehow. Or they just don't want to do anything in general, as the case seems to be.
I fear that with the number of anticompetitive actions the government has failed to act on at this point, companies may legitimately be able to claim as a defense that the government allowing these actions for so long was implicit acceptance of them as legal.
Obviously, companies should have some choice in how they do business, and what products they choose to sell. I won't fault drug companies for refusing to participate in state-sanctioned murder, or super markets for selling exclusively organic.
Nor do I fault AWS for not advertising Google Cloud products.
But when you build a platform/infrastructure, maybe you also have to give up some control.
It is weird though because a couple months ago I thought they had announced they had come to some agreement, and now it seems to be escalating again.
One more thing, when Amazon found out people were installing Google Play Services on their Fire Tablets they issued a software update to prevent that loophole.
Furthermore, from my understanding, for any device to support streaming to Chromecast, it must have Google Play Services, which in turns means complying with MADA. The leaked MADA documents that the public has seen requires you to distribute all of Google's apps in a prominent position on your device, prevents you from forking Android - even on other, completely unrelated devices (prohibiting what Amazon did with Fire OS), requires you to give Google detailed sales information about your devices each month, and more. (Read the article I linked above, and/or review one of the linked MADAs (2).)
So from what I've read about the MADA, supporting Chromecast streaming on Amazon devices would require a complete "takeover" of every Android-based device that Amazon sells, replacing FireOS with Google's Android, and forcing Amazon to bundle Google Play Services and all of Google's apps, and giving those apps the prominent position over Amazon's. The MADA would require this for all devices, even ones that wouldn't support Chromecast streaming.
In a Recode interview (1), Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos implied that these business terms are the heart of the issue:
> "We sell Roku, we sell Xbox, we sell Playstation. We're happy to sell competitive products on Amazon. When we sell those devices, we want our player — our Prime Video player — to be on the device, and we want it to be on the device with acceptable business terms. You can always get the player on the device. The question is, can you get it on there with acceptable business terms? And if you can't, then we don't want to sell it to our customers, because they're going to be buying it thinking they can watch Prime Video, and then they're going to be disappointed and return it."
(1) https://www.recode.net/2016/5/31/11826394/amazon-apple-tv-go... (circa 1h:15m in video)
(2) http://www.benedelman.org/docs/samsung-mada.pdf - see page labeled 6 of 14
If any of the twenty or so mandatory apps the MADA requires constitutes a monopoly, then they are bundling in violation of US antitrust laws.
Tying (informally, product tying) is the practice of selling one product or service as a mandatory addition to the purchase of a different product or service. In legal terms, a tying sale makes the sale of one good (the tying good) to the de facto customer (or de jure customer) conditional on the purchase of a second distinctive good (the tied good). Tying is often illegal when the products are not naturally related. It is related to but distinct from freebie marketing, a common (and legal) method of giving away (or selling at a substantial discount) one item to ensure a continual flow of sales of another related item.
Horizontal tying is the practice of requiring consumers to pay for an unrelated product or service together with the desired one. A hypothetical example would be for Bic to sell its pens only with Bic lighters. (However, a company may offer a limited free item with another purchase as a promotion.
Vertical tying is the practice of requiring customers to purchase related products or services together, from the same company. For example, a company might mandate that its automobiles could only be serviced by its own dealers. In an effort to curb this, many jurisdictions require that warranties not be voided by outside servicing; for example, see the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act in the United States.
The Wikipedia Tying entry also makes references to both Apple and Microsoft products. Of particular interest was how Microsoft not only ties their own products, but also ties Android OEM's, who they shake down to license their patents, to bundle their Microsoft mobile applications.
>Microsoft has also tied its software to the third-party Android mobile operating system, by requiring manufacturers that license patents it claims covers the OS and smartphones to ship Microsoft Office Mobile and Skype applications on the devices.
There's no technical reason Chromecasts can't be set up by Kindle Fire devices, it's an intentionally-implemented block by Google.
As far as contributing back to the AOSP, that's another area where Google's iron grip on Android shows.
You can report bugs and help to patch things, but there's no actual way to contribute anything meaningful to the roadmap.
This is some high-level misinformation being spread on your part, and not the first time you've done this on HN.
Chromecast is an open SDK - Amazon has the power to implement it at any time: https://developers.google.com/cast/docs/terms
The Chromecast SDK allows Amazon to receive Chromecast streams on the Fire TV? Since when?
Cause from what I see here, half of the SDK’s terms ban casting without the SDK, and the SDK itself doesn’t work on devices without Play Services such as the Kindle devices, nor does it work to receive streams.
You’re spreading bullshit again, as every (x|g)oogler has in the other Chromecast thread.
Give me an open source library or full protocol documents I can use to send and receive chromecast streams, so I can stream to my raspberry pi and send streams from a non-Google device, and your argument will have merit.
Your employer's site seems to indicate not: https://www.google.com/chromecast/setup/
Again, Amazon has the power to add Chromecast support to the Fire OS. They chose not to, just as they chose to remove chromecast support from Twitch when they acquired it.
It wasn't quite that. Amazon got pissy about Google following Apple's lead in taking a cut of digital in-app purchases. It's an insane policy, but it is an Apple policy that the industry adopted.
It is not Amazon’s fault that the Android Compatibility Test Suite requires the availability of proprietary Google code, and that the AOSP itself does not pass the CTS.
It’s Google’s fault that Android’s open source version isn’t even considered Android anymore, nor does it have even a working email app anymore. It’s Google’s fault that over the last few years, the AOSP search app, music app, calendar app, contacts app, and finally even the phone app were all dropped and lost support.
The CTS is used to guarantee all Android apps on Google Play work on the device. That's on Amazon for not really caring to maintain compatibility and instead use their own services as a replacement. As for the AOSP not passing the CTS, it was never intended to do so.
>It’s Google’s fault that Android’s open source version isn’t even considered Android anymore, nor does it have even a working email app anymore.
According to the following link updates were made to the Email app 2 days ago which seems to indicate it's still maintained.
>It’s Google’s fault that over the last few years, the AOSP search app, music app, calendar app, contacts app, and finally even the phone app were all dropped and lost support.
These apps require Google services to even work and it's unrealistic to think Google is going to provide non OHA members free access to their servers.
Back on 2.3.7, all apps did work on AOSP. The same on 4.0. Only after 4.0 did critical functionality get moved to the Play Services. This was, as the EU antitrust investigation that's still underway, has already found, anticompetitive.
> According to the following link updates were made to the Email app 2 days ago which seems to indicate it's still maintained.
The app shows a single screen, "Please switch to GMail".
> These apps require Google services to even work and it's unrealistic to think Google is going to provide non OHA members free access to their servers.
All these apps were entirely open source — including Google Search, Google Talk and Google Books — during Android 2.3.7
4.0 dropped Talk, Books, Search, Music.
Between 4.0 and 5.0, Calendar, Contacts, and the Phone app were dropped, and even parts of the launcher.
When I bought all but my latest Nexus device, half of the APIs that are now closed source used to be open. This is fraud, advertising on the box a "fully open source" system, and then closing it off.
Google is absolutely at fault here, and I consider this closing off of AOSP a direct attack.
Android is what you get when you compile from AOSP, if your app doesn't run there, it's broken. Amazon has done massive amounts of work to get as much of the CTS passing as possible (and actually, with their own services they did manage to pass the automated part of the CTS once), but after that, Google introduced new cryptographic signatures on their APIs to prevent this. Amazon (and microG) both solved that by live-patching out the signature checks. As result, Google introduced SafetyNet, a DRM system which verifies the integrity of the system (including bootloader, efuses, and trustzone parts), and reports this to a Google server, which then reports the signature to the servee of the app dev.
Amazon has done everything possible to keep their services compatible, even building compatibility layers for all (!) Google Play APIs.
Google on the other hand has introduced new DRM and obfuscation features with every version.
I'm not sure how the fuck I'm supposed to see Google as the good actor here, considering they're continuously trying to prevent any competition in this space, and are hurting the open source community.
And that's without ever considering Amazon's store. When I published an app in Amazon's store, they got a human to test it for me on all Kindle devices, on hardware. I talked to the human, gave demo access, etc. I got live feedback. When I complained about a missing API, they had it fixed within of a few weeks.
Google on the other hand doesn't offer any support, API complaints get ignored, and to this day on the Nexus 7 "ab".split("") returns something different than on the Nexus 5 — ["", "a","b"] vs ["a", "b"]. On some other Nexus devices even ["a", "b", ""]. Plus Socket.setKeepAlive is broken on Chromebooks. SocketChannel.read and SocketChannel.close both take a lock on the same object, SocketChannel.read can block forever and Thread.interrupt calls SocketChannel.close. Deadlock. Plus thousands more of such bugs which I had to work around, and requested fixing for since 2013. Bugreports filed, Googlers messaged on Google+. Nothing. String.split got fixed in 7.0 — because Google replaced their implementation with the OpenJDK one.
And when questioned about updating the SSLEngine, Google offers a Play Services API to do so — but starting with 9.0, will prevent any non-system apps from doing this on their own.
It's not just that Play Services offers additional functionality — AOSP functionality got removed. The Stepcounter API only reports steps taken while your app was open, requiring either a foreground notification, or using the Google Fit APIs instead. The first annoys users, the second is incompatible with HIPAA and half of European law.
Seriously, at every step of the way, Google throws boulders in the path of me, how am I supposed to support them?
I see this as more of a morale problem than a legal one. As a company advertised itself as customer obsession, this smells pretty bad.
Amazon will continue to stay ahead of monopoly calls as long as they don't make moves like this. Monopolies can benefit for some time such as AT&T with software/labs/modern applications (C++) wiring for telecom, Microsoft with Windows desktop and getting people on the internet, Apple with the smart phone, Amazon with online purchasing, Google with search, cable/telco providers and broadband access etc. But once these companies start pushing too hard on the monopoly levers, blocking competitors, actively breaking competitors products/software/standards, blocking out fair markets, then they start to have problems and maybe will get broken up. AT&T was broken up, Microsoft got slowed considerably resulting in Apple/Google rising, Amazon and Google need to keep it fair or else it will get more and more heated.
Moves like blocking competitors or competing products, rather than just making better products, are troubling and signs that the some people in charge there are taking cheap ways out to gain short term advantage. Capitalism only works well when there are fair markets and competition, otherwise it is big fish oligarchies of companies that works for noone controlling everything.
After a few years of using Amazon pretty much exclusively for everything then going back to other sites for branded items, I have been pleasantly surprised how much better "all the other" online stores have gotten at fast free shipping and reliable service.
At this point, Alexa works nicely with my Nest thermostat. If they break that, then I will be mighty annoyed because I will have to reach into my pocket to change the temperature instead of just blurting out the desired temperature of my abode.
This is the danger of vertical integration. Once upon a time the US government did built and used antitrust and antimonopoly legislation.
What would you like a competent trade regulator to do here?
I'm naive, but I'd like them to tell amazon to fk off out of this behaviour and penalise them significantly. I think either a shop has a giant sign on the door "we don't sell NEST" or not. Simply not providing it, when in other ways its in competition with the suppliers of NEST feels like trade discrimination for predatory outcomes. Supplying competitive items, including forged items puts you in a very strange place.
Apple stores don't sell windows PCs, this is understood. If Apple established a general purpose computing outlet, supplied PCs but decided not to stock Dell or HP (note, not that Dell or HP refused to supply: Apple decided not to stock) then I'd say the same thing. If Dell or HP didn't stock to Apple stores, and if Google refuses to stock to Amazon, then the beef is with the supply side, not the distribution side. Same logic, different direction.
Search for "lightning cable" shows multiple Amazon listings on the first page, similar for batteries and other items that are routinely counterfeited. Google isn't doing the user a favor by routing them to suspect merchandise.
It's no like you're going to change your search engine to Bing because Google stopped showing organic search results for Amazon.
I just searched for e.g. "Acer Predator Helios 300" and Amazon is second non-paid result.
I would imagine that's the case for a lot of searches and not being in search results would hurt them a lot.
And to be clear: I think it should be illegal for Google to selectively and anti-competitively tweak search results just as it should be illegal for Amazon to selectively and anti-competitively refuse to sell products.
and any fake or pirated app on google play
Maybe I’m just a paranoiac, but given the choice of Amazon, or Google having mics/cameras in my home, I would choose neither. I can’t think of a company I would trust to do that, and yet even people sensitive to privacy concerns on one hand seem blinded by the most petty convenience offered by these devices.
The stakes are huge. Both Amazon and Google are building out a new voice-powered operating system that can control everything in your life — from your lights to your garage door to the music and video you stream.
Apparently enough people trust it that they keep buying the latest phone models year after year.
Anyone who is terrified by this technological shift should at least be cognizant that you are already basically recorded in some way whenever you go out in public in any major city.
This is just the next shift.
This is more than the “next shift” and I can feel the water getting too hot for this frog.
Agreed. But we seem to be in a minority considering how popular these devices are, measured in terms of the millions of such units sold.
I guess they are taping into the 'human beings are inherently lazy' thing.
> A year ago, Gigaom said Nest was selling 40,000-50,000 thermostats per month. Devitt estimates Nest is selling 100,000 thermostats per month now.
Even if you believe Apple/Google/Amazons intentions are honorable-- these devices will be attacked by every intelligence agency. It is an act of insanity to but this stuff.
This is rather alarmist since I control both the power and internet supply to any smart devices I bring into my home.
I have much less control over my phone than my Echo.
Also why do you imagine that an echo is fundamentally unable to be rooted?
That said, I am deeply concerned about where we are headed in the future. I have a natural distrust of all organizations that grows exponentially with the size of that organization. I don't want to make a choice between the lesser of evils. Yet, as we get deeper and deeper into the pervasiveness of technology, I see a real inability to participate that comes as a result of abstaining. Historically OSS has been late to the party, but at least they show up. I have a hard time seeing open source projects keeping up. I had high hopes in mycroft but it never materialized. I'm not too invested in Google Home to bail, so my soul may still be redeemable. I am nervous about our future options tho.
In what ways? How do you think people will be harmed?
Next day, daddy doesn't come home from work, kid never sees him again.
An intentionally extreme example, but this type of thing is certainly within the realm of possibility, and gradually making small encroachments.
In your scenario, Bezos is an evil worldwide overlord who murders non-supporters casually. And yet somehow the real problem is an Echo on the kitchen counter.
Just... what the fuck?
“Realm of possibility” means something very different to you than to me.
A device that instantaneously and irrevocably transmits anything spoken to it to HQ, and then automatically transcribes it and makes it available for analysis, is absolutely a dangerous tool for censorship and repression. The fact that it looks nice on your counter and also spits out weather reports doesn't automatically invalidate those risks.
These BigCos already compose complex, fairly accurate estimations of our interests and beliefs based on the data they read out of our emails, search history, and yes, voice commands. This data is used to make advertising decisions, but there's no reason that the same data can't be applied to "pre-moderate" the opinions of those who've expressed "dangerous views" in private, or worse. It just hasn't been used that way yet (to our knowledge, though it wouldn't surprise me to learn that Facebook or Google are already punishing/down-ranking accounts that express sentiments they dislike).
Inviting these companies into your house to sit in every room and listen for "wake words", and then send up snippets of audio to HQ, should not be dismissed as a casual thing, even if the tradeoff is considered acceptable by some.
Also you well know that the Echo is not transmitting everything it hears to HQ. It transmits only when invoked, which can be spurious but is not constant. Same for Apple and Google equivalents.
This is absurd. When Bezos becomes the dark lord you imagine, just unplug your Echo and throw it away. Problem solved.
How much data will have been collected and stored by then? Let’s just put Bezos aside for a moment, and think about foreign and domestic intelligence orgs which will get their fingers into this. Let’s remember a bit of WWII, when harmless census data empowered the Nazis to track down people with Jewish ancestry.
It’s not about what you think Bezos or today’s govt will do with the information, but what the corporate raiders and govts will do with it for the rest of your life.
It doesn’t matter. If the concern is that Bezos will flip the echo to be a political surveillance device, there is an immediate fix. Yes, the existing cache of data may still be around, but that wasn’t the concern posed by the original poster. The concern was specifically that after Bezos becomes the dark lord, an “innocent” question could result in politically motivated murder.
If your concern with the echo is that you don’t want anything recording anything in your house, that is reasonable and you should not get an echo. Of course, you should probably also not carry a phone.
> Let’s remember a bit of WWII, when harmless census data empowered the Nazis to track down people with Jewish ancestry.
And yet we still do the census because the value is high and the concern low. The fact that a thing can be abused does not mean it should not be used.
Well it’s my concern, and I suspect others have it too. I’m not trying to weigh in on the side of “Bezos is evil” by any means, I’m just adding a dimension that seemed to be neglected.
Personally I’m not very concerned about the Echo, which is why I own it. But I do understand the reasonable concern that records could be subpoenaed or the data feed could be tapped.
Last I checked, the Echo had 3 potential wake words: "Alexa", "Echo", and "Amazon". I don't use "Alexa" because I knew a kid named Alexa growing up and I didn't like her. I don't want to remember her every time I talk to the machine. I use "Echo" but when I'm listening to audiobooks or podcasts and the word "Echo" comes up, the thing activates, and maybe I _don't want_ Amazon to know what podcasts or books I listen to. It also happens on words that sound kinda-sorta like "Echo". Random "accidental" invocation and the loss of control over the listener then becomes a real thing, especially with a wake word like "Amazon".
All they'd have to do is say "We've found 'Amazon' is the best wake word and 90% of our people use it so it's the default now", and suddenly, they'd be hearing a lot of casual conversations and opinions about what people think of this 'Amazon'. Now imagine that this really does become a tool for political oppression and they add a few "silent wake words" that don't make the ring light up.
I have 3 Echos. My kids ask it questions all the time. If I were to teach my children some politically incorrect belief or some religious tenet that counters the dominant religious tenets of the day, and they ask the Echo for more information about it, someone at Amazon may hear that, and a computer at Amazon would certainly process and analyze it.
Some day, the result of that analysis may be flagging for further investigation or addition to dissident watchlists. They may even apply this to archived recordings, all of which you yourself can play back (for now).
Imagine someone from the other side of the aisle guessed $Prominent_Politician's Amazon password. What would happen if there was a voice recording of that politician asking something that doesn't look so good? Would the attacker just say "Oh boy I better not share this, that wouldn't be very nice?"
In this age when people like Jo Cox and Steve Scalise are targeted by radical citizen-assassins, how can we pretend there is no risk? How can we pretend like this data is somehow intrinsically impregnable to technically sophisticated political extremists? And what happens when a demagogue mainstreams that extremist perspective, and writes laws that require Google or Amazon to submit these recordings for the good of the people?
I'm not trying to be alarmist, and I obviously think that the tradeoff is not horrible right now since I have 3 of these spy devices (and a Nest cam), but we have to understand that these are real things, real possibilities. It is very naive to presume that this couldn't or wouldn't happen (or even that it doesn't on some scale -- I'm sure a subpoena or NSL could get this data).
“Plausible” does not mean “not literally impossible”. It means something is reasonably possible. Your scenario is not reasonably possible. It is exceedingly unlikely. It is possible, perhaps plausible, that the government could tap the echo data feed, but that’s really a much different scenario than the active monitoring of children’s political education that you imagine.
You clearly don’t believe in the plausibility of these scenarios or you would not have three Echos in your house.
"Plausible" means it reasonably could happen, yes. It doesn't necessarily have to mean that it's expected to happen in the immediate term (unless that's the pre-existing context to the discussion).
I don't believe conditions are such that it will happen right now. But that doesn't put it into the realm of mere theory, the things that make you say "I mean, sure, that's possible" behind rolling eyes.
Given the correct political conditions, I would venture that these eventualities are not just plausible, but downright expected. Maybe not the black bag, but certainly monitoring, penalization, enforced re-education (which portends black bagging).
>You clearly don’t believe in the plausibility of these scenarios or you would not have three Echos in your house.
Most of us do a lot of things that we know we really shouldn't do out of convenience, habit, etc.
I don't think it's likely that I'd get picked up for anything that my kids end up telling my Echo, at least not at this juncture, which is why I still have them.
If my religious or political beliefs were more fringe, or if the ground continues to crumble such that they become fringe by virtue of the cliff of acceptable discourse growing ever-shorter, then I would certainly consider it unsafe to let the children have access to the Echo. We monitor it now, but it's in a place where they can talk to it if they want. Wouldn't be that way if I thought we had something to worry about.
It's true that the archived recordings could also be used against us, but I think that we're moderate enough that there'd be too many other more worrisome targets to pursue first. Of course, you never really know.
Should things get this way, I would probably still keep one of the listeners hooked up in some room that is rarely used for conversation and feed it information that the bosses would be happy about. Maybe I would say "Echo, please tell me about all of Jeff Bezos's accomplishments."
In a more realistic climate where Bezos doesn't cross over into overt dictatorship, it may be smart to do this alternately with various political figures, so that I can cherry-pick proof of early admiration for whichever political figure wins and implements the dystopian future. This would be much smarter than just unplugging the device and having the line go dead, especially if they correlate the date the feed went dead with a specific political event.
(of an argument or statement) seeming reasonable or probable.
You argument is failing this test, it is very very improbable that current echoes will be used for anything like this.
All existing Echo models, afaik, are easily capable of being deployed and utilized for these purposes. I don't know whether a remote firmware update can change the wake words that can activate the device or not, but other than that, there is no good reason why this wouldn't happen other than just nobody has done it. From a technical perspective, this kind of use is completely plausible.
Whether or not the political will to exploit this capacity en masse will arise or not is a different matter, and I'm not really betting one way or the other on that.
That's the same kind of thinking that makes people so scared of being victimized by violent crime even though things are safer now than they ever have been.
It's possible, but it's also possible that all of the carbon dioxide in the room randomly collects around your head and you suffocate.
"Alexa, why doesn't my daddy agree with Emperor of Mankind, His Excellency Jeff Bezos?"
Three months later daddy gets a poor performance rating a work.
In the propaganda: "Only losers disagree with his supremacy out of jealousy."
And the stats seem to support it.