The Store is Tracking You

Screen Shot 2018 01 23 at 8 30 25 PM

Irony is not dead.

This week Amazon, the 800-pound gorilla of online merchants, opened an actual physical store. From the pictures, it looks like what Whole Foods (which Amazon bought last year) might have come up with if they were designing a Wawa.

However, the unique part of Amazon Go is that there are no checkout lines, cash registers, or cashiers, and the tech press went wild.

On arrival, you launch the Go app, which comes out today for iPhones and Android phones and connects to your Amazon account. It displays a 2D code that you scan at one of several glass security gates. The code identifies you to the store and opens the gate. (You can also check in other people—a spouse, a kid, a friend—whose purchases will be added to your tab.) Once you’re in, AI algorithms start to track you and everything you pick up and keep. You can bag your items as you go if you so choose, and need interact with an employee only if you’re buying alcohol, in which case an associate standing in the liquor area will check your ID.

The article talks about the store using a lot of AI, although I’m not sure this system is all that smart (yet). Really it’s only a couple of steps beyond how I already shop.

At the supermarket I go to most often, I pick up a hand-held device after scanning a loyalty card. As I select the items I want, I scan the bar code and stick it in my bag. At check out, I scan a code on the device, wave my Apple Pay at the register, and leave. Amazon engineers take that semi-manual process and incorporate the scanner into the building itself.

This is only one store, in downtown Seattle, and it’s not clear where Amazon plans to take this concept. But it’s not hard to predict where this general technology is going.

Between the general lust for data by corporations and governments, and the paranoia-fueled push for more “security”, this kind of tracking system will become more powerful. And likely be spread far and wide.

Watch for AI-powered cameras and sensors at your local mall, airport, convention center, wherever lots of people come and go. At your school?

Ok, that’s enough ranting on this topic for now. I have to go work on my sensor-blocking tin foil hat. :)


Tweet by @typesfast, posted January 22.

 

Who Owns The Media You Just “Bought”?

My cable company regularly sends me offers to buy movies. Amazon does the same, and for television shows as well. iTunes tells me they have thousands of video programs I can purchase.

Except they’re all lying.

They either claim, as in the cable ads, that I’ll “own them forever”, or imply that’s the case. But what happens if (more likely, when) Verizon’s contract with the owner of your movie ends and it’s no longer available from that particular store. Or if your cable company merges with another and the new accountants decide that season pass you “bought” was priced too low. Or Amazon goes out of business (it will happen someday).

When it comes to music, there are a half dozen or more streaming services, places where you can listen to all the tracks in the known universe. Build collections, assemble albums, play them on any device. At least you can until you stop paying the monthly charge, after which your music collection disappears.

Then there are digital books from Amazon and Apple, and audiobooks from Audible (which is owned by Amazon). They download to your device and you can read them when you’re not online, so it looks like you own them, but not really. Those files come with digital rights management (DRM), code that prevents you from doing what people have always done with paper-based books: give to family or friends when you are done, or allowing others to borrow them from your library. Except, it’s not “your” library.

The bottom line to all this ranting is simply that everyone needs to realize that when you pay for media and are not allowed to control the file, you don’t own it; you’re renting. And that’s the plan of the big copyright owners. They want to get us used to this kind of media marketplace, since it’s only a few steps from there to all music, video, and books being pay-per-view.

Just something to think about as you go about your holiday shopping this year.

It’s a Simple Request

Although in the past I’ve had plenty of concerns about ebooks sold by Amazon and others, I’m now hooked on them and will likely not be buying paper versions anymore.

From day 1, reading materials on my iPad has been a great experience, and I’m increasingly avoiding paper and using it for quick access to all kinds of files, work-related or not.

But up until a few weeks ago I’d only bought one commercial title from an online book store (mostly out of curiosity), despite downloading dozens of sample chapters.

So what changed?

Someone created a dirt simple way* to remove the DRM from Kindle and other ebook formats.

It’s not that I was holding out so I can post copies on the torrents or start selling them out of the back of my virtual car.

I simply want to be able to easily give a book to a friend when I’m finished with it, or loan it to a family member.

The same ability, the same rights, I’ve always had when it comes to items that I purchase for my non-digital library, including video and audio.

I’m not asking for much, am I?


* The link goes to a Mac-only solution. A slightly less dirt simple method for Windows users is here.  And no one seems to have created a way to remove DRM from files sold in Apple’s iBook store so they will still be getting none of my business.

The Strange Holiday Mix for 2009

Presenting this year’s collection of holiday music now in heavy rotation on my Shuffle. Seems to be more traditional stuff than in the past. Maybe I’m mellowing or maybe I just haven’t found as many off-the-wall items recently.

  1. Christmas Is Interesting – Jonathan CoultonCharlie Brown Christmas Tree
  2. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! – Carly Simon
  3. Hey Santa! – Straight No Chaser
  4. A Cold, Cold Christmas – Stephen Colbert
  5. Christmas In America – Melissa Etheridge
  6. Slower Than Christmas – The Boxmasters
  7. Who Spiked The Eggnog? – Straight No Chaser
  8. Trains and Winter Rains – Enya
  9. You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch – Brian Setzer
  10. Sleigh Ride – The Ronettes
  11. Joy To The World – Symphony Brass of Chicago
  12. Come Darkness, Come Light – Mary Chapin Carpenter
  13. Please Be Patient – Feist
  14. It Came Upon A Midnight Clear – Josh Groban
  15. The Christmas Can-Can – Straight No Chaser
  16. Funky New Year – The Eagles
  17. It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year – Brian McKnight
  18. Podsafe Christmas Song – Jonathan Coulton
  19. My Dreams of Christmas – Billy Bob Thornton & The Boxmasters
  20. I Can’t Wait for Christmas – Mindi Abair
  21. O Come O Come Emmanuel – Carter’s Chord
  22. The Nutcracker Suite – Les Brown & His Band Of Renown

I think everything can be had at iTunes and/or Amazon. If you really want them.


The picture? Found it at The Jewish Journal. :-)

 

Amazon Selleth… and Amazon Taketh Away

Another reason to be wary of Amazon’s digital books – or any other media that comes with DRM strings attached.

This morning, hundreds of Amazon Kindle owners awoke to discover that books by a certain famous author had mysteriously disappeared from their e-book readers. These were books that they had bought and paid for–thought they owned.

But no, apparently the publisher changed its mind about offering an electronic edition, and apparently Amazon, whose business lives and dies by publisher happiness, caved. It electronically deleted all books by this author from people’s Kindles and credited their accounts for the price.

Producers of video content would love to exercise this kind of control of your television and DVR through government-mandated schemes like the broadcast flag.