Amazon Patent Brings Biometric Surveillance to Your Front Door

A newly published patent application from Amazon outlines a smart doorbell designed to use facial recognition for a kind of technologically-enhanced neighborhood watch.

The essential idea is to let users add suspicious individuals to a watch list, which is shared by a given community network based on connected houses using the biometric doorbell system. When such individuals are identified by the face-scanning doorbell, an alert can be sent to a given homeowner. Meanwhile, regular visitors such as mail carriers can be added to a list of authorized persons.

The patent credits Jamie Siminoff as its inventor; Siminoff is the CEO of Ring, a smart doorbell specialist that Amazon acquired earlier this year.

Detailing the patent application and its implications in an ACLU blog post, Technology & Civil Liberties Attorney Jacob Snow says that the patent includes a feature in which a scan of a suspicious individual will automatically trigger an alert to law enforcement authorities. Snow asserts that “Amazon is dreaming of a dangerous future, with its technology at the center of a massive decentralized surveillance network, running real-time facial recognition on members of the public using cameras installed in people’s doorbells.”

Snow adds that the patent application also “anticipates targeting an arsenal of other biometrics, including fingerprints, skin-texture analysis, DNA, palm-vein analysis, hand geometry, iris recognition, odor/scent recognition, and even behavioral characteristics, like typing rhythm, gait, and voice recognition.”

Of course, major tech companies like Amazon file patents more or less constantly, and such applications can never be relied upon as an accurate forecast of actual forthcoming products or services – often they simply reflect R&D experimentation. For its part, Amazon has demonstrated a commitment to this kind of facial recognition technology in the face of high-pitch controversy this year, though it’s also worth noting that this particular patent was filed on May 18th, just before the controversy really exploded thanks to an ACLU investigation. It’s possible the company’s excitement over this particular patent may have cooled in the ensuing months.

Sources: CNN, ACLU

December 14, 2018 – by Alex Perala