By Dr. Jason Johnson
Americans are always very suspicious of the government. We get mad about spying from the NSA, cheer on whistleblowers who expose government corruption and waste, and are quick to complain about laws that intrude into our personal space or privacy. When it comes to business however, we seem more than happy to give up whatever rights, privacy or social experiences we have all in the name of convenience, lower prices and novelty. How else can you explain the impending explosion of Amazon Air Prime. Forget your fingers, let the drones do the shopping.
Amazon Air Prime is the new media marketing, attention grabbing privacy invading idea of Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of online commercial giant AMAZON.com. Bezos recently said on 60 Minutes during an interview that in the coming years he plans on using a fleet of drones that will fly products from warehouse to customers, totally bypassing that pesky and increasingly dysfunctional snail mail system we’ve been using for centuries. These drones, which often look like mini-helicopters would blanket the sky and be flown by Amazon operators at regional offices and shipping houses and bring products straight to your door, drop it off and fly back to make their next delivery. And lest we thought Bezos was just trying to get some media attention, the Washington Post did a full page story about this new drone technology this week just to hammer home the point (Not surprising since Bezos owns the Washington Post). Great idea right? Of course, as long as Americans are prepared to give up whatever remaining private space there is in the name of convenience.
Once Americans are comfortable giving up a certain amount of privacy for the sake of convenience to a corporation that they have no control over, it becomes that much easier for the government to continue down the same path, unchecked and unmonitored. When a FedEx employee comes to your house with a package, you sign for it, and they leave. They cannot record any information about you other than your signature and maybe that you wear funny pajamas during the afternoon when you came to the door. But a drone flying to your home to deliver a book, or a pair of headphones or pants is not simply a mechanical passenger pigeon mindlessly dropping off packages. Drones are piloted by men and women, drones have cameras, drones can record what you say, what your home looks like, your car, your clothing anything about you, and that information can be sent right back to Amazon, and anyone else they chose to sell your information to. Imagine an Amazon Air Prime drone coming to your home to drop off a pizza (trust me, it’s already happening abroad it’ll be here soon enough) in the process the drone records what type of car you drive, clicks a photo of your television when you open the door and finally downloads ambient noise in your home which identifies you as having three children. All of this information is then packaged by Amazon to be sold to various companies that you never in your wildest dreams expected to receive ads from.
I’m sure many people reading now think this is shoulder shrug kind of phenomenon. Everytime you use your credit card at Target they record purchases and change the ads that are sent to your home. When you pay by phone for a parking meter your license plate and phone number are recorded. Google scans your email to send you ads. In other words, most of us have already given up any semblance of privacy to our almighty corporate masters and don’t seem that much worse off. Which may very well be the case, if it weren’t for the fact that it was made very clear throughout the Obama presidency that in exchange for the IRS looking the other way and choice government contracts many corporations have been more than happy to hand over our persona information to Uncle Sam for safe keeping.
Drones have primarily been used by the United States to bomb other countries and spy on foreign citizens (who we often bomb later). While the technology itself is not evil, I’m hard pressed to see how integrating this technology into commercial life won’t make it even easier for corporations and the government to keep tabs on private citizen activity that is ostensibly none of their business. However if none of this matters to you, enjoy your future invasive drone deliveries. Just don’t be surprised when a bill shows up to your house from city government with a blurry aerial photo showing your roof doesn’t pass city inspection standards. You’re the one who just had to get your new laptop delivered by drone.