If Amazon Go cameras seem squiggy, shouldn’t online tracking be too?
One of the nice things about looking at the full scope of tech news for the day is that two stories that you otherwise wouldn’t think to connect end up playing off each other perfectly. So it was today with the following pieces of news.
Here’s where I see the connection: both are about companies tracking your activities in order to gather data they could monetize later. Let’s take them one by one, starting with Amazon.
You likely already know the story with Amazon Go stores: you can walk in and browse around, putting stuff in your cart as you like. Instead of checking out, you just leave. It all works because cameras track your every move and determine what you’ve picked up to charge you later. You can even pick something up, walk around the store with it, then put it back and leave and Amazon will figure that out. I know this because I’ve done it several times just to see.
Nick Statt visited Amazon’s new expansion of that concept and reported an excellent story about how it works as a full grocery store. He also interviewed executives on the details of how it’s all being positioned. Notably, this is an “Amazon Go” store and not just a Whole Foods. For Amazon, they’re two distinct retail models (for now).
That complexity inherent to the grocery market is why Amazon chose to brand its new store as a Go one, instead of choosing to bring its cashier-less Go model to an existing Whole Foods location. Amazon wants the freedom to sell people products from major brands they might find at a city bodega, a neighborhood CVS, or a Kroger store, and not just the organic and high-end ones Whole Foods sells today. That sets up Amazon to service a wider variety of customers: Go stores for the office lunch crowd, Go Grocery for the everyday residential shopper, and Whole Foods for the organic-minded and more affluent.
But as you are thinking about this whole model I suspect that Amazon’s go to market strategy isn’t top of mind. Instead, there’s either an alarm klaxon going off in your head or — at the very least — a quiet voice saying this: it seems super creepy for cameras to watch your every move as you walk around a store. The follow-up thought is that the convenience of not having to check out is perhaps not worth the tradeoff for the surveillance that’s happening inside these stores. [ … ]