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Has Amazon got a reality show for you! And you’re the camera operator.

Has Amazon got a reality show for you! And you’re the camera operator.
 

What if all the talk in the United States about one’s right to biometric privacy is limited to advocates, academics, some journalists, a minority of elected officials and a proportionately small number of ordinary people?

In September 2019, Andy Jassy, then Amazon‘s CEO of the firm’s Web Services unit, told PBS’ Frontline that violations of a person’s privacy are an individual’s responsibility.

Libertarian-leaning Jassy says in the video that if Amazon harms someone’s privacy through biometric (or other) privacy practices, that person can point it out to the global retailer and cumulus cloud service firm. Amazon can consider the complaint and act or not.

It was a startling statement at the time, and it is possible that his view has evolved since then (the topic apparently has not come up in interviews since he became Amazon’s chief executive).

But what if he was right to be dismissive. Jassy would not have been the first business executive to redefine privacy in a self-serving way and hear a yawn from consumers.

Ring Nation might answer that question.

Beginning Sept. 26, MGM Television and Big Fish Entertainment, both owned by Amazon, will debut the syndicated TV show Ring Nation, according to entertainment trade publication Deadline.

The reality show will be comprised entirely of slices of life collected by Amazon-made Ring doorbell/security cameras. Ring Nation will be hosted by acerbic standup comic and actress Wanda Sykes.

It will be a clip show, like TikTok with an editorial structure.

If it is anything like similar programming before social media, Ring Nation will have heartwarming content (a dog caring for a duckling, as an example), military reunions and unintentional but funny physical comedy (men being hit in the groin with anything).

But to be captured, it all will have to happen in front of a doorbell, very many of which face a public street. Someone moving down that street might have told their boss an hour ago that they were too sick to work. It might be where people gather for a political rally.

What happens to this video is anything but clear.

With Ring’s Protect subscription plan, the vendor generally allows system owners to store images in Amazon’s cloud services via Ring’s Neighbors app or on Ring.com for as long as 180 days. Still images, called Snapshot Captures cannot be stored longer than seven days.

But anything recorded in a service called Neighborhoods is retained indefinitely by Amazon. Also, Ring videos shared with others appear to have no end date for storage.

That is where details end, and questions begin.

Is anyone on the street fair game for inclusion or will homeowners or producers get informed consent from subjects? Do the videos arriving at MGM with pixelation protecting non-consenting faces?

If Amazon states its deletion policies on Ring.com, it does a good job of not pointing visitors to them. It is not clear that videos will actually be deleted or how that would happen. Will they be deleted?

How long will the videos submitted for Ring Nation be stored by MGM and Big Fish? Both are part of Amazon, but their need to create broadcast content might mean the images or other biometric identifiers of non-consenting people caught by a Ring camera could live on for years.

There is a bigger question, however. A TV show like Ring Nation could go a long way in normalizing private surveillance, maybe near to the point of omnipresence in some neighborhoods. If the TikTok phenomenon is any gauge, Ring doorbells could be viewed by people as an invitation to fame, if not riches.

Is Jassy making the safe bet?

Will Americans storm Seattle if Amazon properties profit from their privacy and their biometric identity? Or will they come to think of their privacy as a cryptocurrency that buys a lottery ticket?

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