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The latest in drone technology

You may well have heard a lot of media hype surrounding the new aerial drones that will soon be in use from Amazon. They set to revolutionise the way your online purchases are delivered but there are growing concerns they may also compromise you privacy.

Amazon’s drone technology

Amazon already holds data on over 300 million customers worldwide. This includes information such as credit card and financial details as well home and work addresses. The other type of data amazon collects refers to your browsing history. Have you ever noticed that after browsing for a product that it will pop up on other pages encouraging you to purchase it? Many are now fearful that Amazon will not only use the drones to deliver purchases in record breaking speed but they could also use it to snoop on their customers and tailor future product advertisement.

The patent gives the example of drone footage, analysed automatically by Amazon’s computers, revealing that a customer’s roof is in poor condition. “Subsequently, the computers may generate a recommendation to the customer informing them of the [disrepair] and offering an item that is appropriate, such as a roof repair service.”

It gives the additional example of delivery drones identifying that trees in a customer’s garden are in bad condition and require work.

Growing concerns

Amazon’s patent will raise privacy concerns, although it indicates that surveillance of addresses would only go ahead with the customer’s consent. It also states that the drones could be programmed to stop capturing data when people are identified as being present.

Apart from commercial uses, a drone’s sensors could also detect smoke coming from a building, gunshots, or cries for help and notify the emergency services, the patent said.

Zhewei Zhang, of Warwick Business School, said: “The first thing that comes to mind is privacy. It is almost inevitable that the drone would capture images against people’s wishes.

“The patent also shows Amazon’s ambition as an advertising business. Facebook is now more or less an advertising company as it can provide more accurate ad-targeting based on users’ online activities and social networks. Drone capture gives Amazon another way to analyse users’ offline behaviour. Combining online and offline analysis will offer even more accurate recommendation and ad-targeting.”

A glimpse of the future

The filing is one of the least outlandish of Amazon’s recent output. Other drone-related patents from the company include drone bases located on zeppelins or trains that would travel to areas of anticipated demand. It also envisages underwater warehouses in reservoirs, where goods would surface on balloons to be collected by delivery drones as needed.

Overall, it seems like it is still too early to tell exactly what extent Amazon will be able to access and use your personal data. We encourage everyone who shop with the online store to remain vigilant. If you are concerned about your security online and would like some expert help, just get in touch with us on the contact page.

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