Yesterday, on “60 Minutes,” Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos made an unprecedented announcement saying that the company is developing a delivery-by-drone service. The new service, called Prime Air, would deliver a package 30 minutes after a package was ordered.
The drones would depart from one of Amazon’s 96 fulfillment centers and are able to deliver items weighing up to five pounds, 86 percent of Amazon packages. The company is still trying to measure safety and gain FAA approvals. Prime Air is expected to be available in four or five years.
Although efficient and seemingly advantageous to the consumer and the company, but Prime Air could pose a threat to personal privacy, which has been a hot-button issue as of late considering the Edward Snowden revelations. Of course Amazon isn’t a government entity, but this wouldn’t be the first time a company has been questioned and criticized for its intrusiveness.
Google came under fire for privacy invasion because of its “Wi-Spy” incident. In 2010, Google admitted to its Street View vehicles collecting personal web data from home wifi networks. To aid its location services while photographing countrysides and cityscapes, the vehicles piggybacked off of these home wifi networks.
Google was caught by the German data protection agency and the company went to “re-examine everything [they] have been collecting” and subsequently ceased the Street View cars’ operation until it deleted the data and fixed the wrongdoing. This data collectioned happened wherever there were Street View cars, including the United States.
Three years later after admitting to collecting personal data like e-mail addresses, passwords, and even medical records, Google then admitted that it invaded the privacy of those whose information it collected. The company that raked in $50 billion in 2012, had to pay a meager $7 million that was disbursed to 38 states and Washington D.C. for privacy violation.
Granted, Google fessed up to their mistake and corrected it when it was pointed out, but the fact that it was an apparent accident further illustrates how delicate private data is and how easy it is to obtain.
In September, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decided that Google’s tapping of domestic wifi networks wasn’t exempt from the Wiretap Act. Google then tried to argue that just because the wifi signals were unencrypted, they were open “radio communications” in the same way as radio frequencies, they were exempt.
Amazon could be staring down the same barrel. These are times when personal privacy is its most threatened, and the National Security Agency has already proven its threatened state as it all but extorted million upon millions of phone records from mobile phone carriers and hijacked just as much web information from the likes of Google and Yahoo.
And now, Amazon is wanting to drop itself, literally, into our backyards in the shadow of so many other companies before it have fumbled around with our personal and private information.