Amazon Go and Privacy Challenges

In January of 2018, Amazon Go has finally opened to the public as its first store which located  in Seattle, WA. Another six Amazon Go stores are planned to open across the country this year as well.  Amazon Go is aiming in a move that could revolutionise the way we buy groceries– it has no human checkout operators or cashiers.

How does it work

In short, customers simply walk into the store, pick up items that they want, and they’re automatically charged for their purchases on their Amazon Go account and associated credit card, no need to stop for checking out.

The store use a variety of scanning technologies and algorithms to monitor patrons and verify purchases. When consumers walk in swiping their smartphones loaded with the Amazon Go app, they are free to put any of the sandwiches, salads, drinks and biscuits on the shelves straight into their personal shopping bags or backpacks instead of shopping carts.  The store uses hundreds of cameras and electronic sensors that mounted on the ceiling and corners to identify each customer and track the items they select.

Why Amazon Go might succeed

For consumers, no need to wait in the line during the grocery rush hour is a big relief, especially when you in a hurry to catch the morning bus or forget to grab your wallet. You walk in and out much faster.  In addition, you can also see the price (including sales price) ahead of time. The app also provides valuable feedback data from consumers. Instead of waiting and writing feedback card in a grocery store where you are upset about the salad you purchase, simply typing a short review and click submit, your store manager will know immediately that the salad might not be as fresh as they expected. It also allows you to track your grocery expenditure and eating habit. You might wanna put your lunch budge a little bit tighter and spend more money on healthier choices.

For the store managers and retail owners, not only for the obvious reason that stores don’t have to hire more human for the basic operations, the data it generates and offers in real time is a game changer : the Amazon Go app gives it customer feedback and helps dictate what the store should stock instantly. And this is the crucial part across retail because they don’t want to miss out on sales and find themselves with unsold merchandise they have to chuck or sell at clearance prices.

What about their privacy policy

One would imagine a cashierless store would come at a big cost to privacy, as the system allows Amazon to track troves of data, from cameras, sensors and microphones. So far, the Amazon Go app uses the same privacy policy as  The policy claims that the information it collects and stores include the information you give them, automatic information (certain types of information whenever you interact with us), and also information from other sources .No sensor, camera or monitor information were mentioned in their privacy policy, it could follows under the information you give them section.

How this will impact our life

You might not be able to enjoy Amazon Go now if you are not in Seattle area, in the very near future it could still impact our lives greatly. Although Amazon has not said whether and how much they are planning to expand their concept, the technology is already proving to be something it could use more widely and echo across different areas.

The huge impact from this technology is not only from online aspect, but also the real physical world. The patent that Amazon filed in 2014 shows that Amazon used the algorithm analyses the gestures captured by the cameras to identify which items a customer picks ups, and the weight sensors to assess which ones leave the shelves. The shoppers are basically on display throughout the whole process : tracked by hundreds of cameras and sensors from the first swipe of their phone to their last step out the door. Data generated from this process include: your location and time information, your body and physical information (your clothes and shoe size, gender, ethnicity and the clothing information) and movement (walking pattern, gesture), your health information (your height, weight, even heart rate).  Till now, Amazon Go hasn’t mentioned if they will track any information regarding under aged children. The smart convenience of the Amazon Go technology also brings potential scary privacy concerns. Not only it collects your shopping behavior, but also some of your physical behavior and data.


Leave a Reply