Responding to Privacy Concerns in the Tech Age

 

Amazon_Go_in_Seattle,_December_2016-3

On Monday in Seattle, Amazon opened the doors to its first convenience store, a high tech retail store called Amazon Go. The slogan behind this store is “No lines, no checkout-just grab and go!”

With no cashiers or checkout stands, Amazon’s technology is so advanced it can see and recognize every item in the store without needing to attach a special chip to every banana or cup of yogurt. Customers simply grab what they want, throw it in their bag and walk out. Payment is automatically deducted from an account on the Amazon Go mobile app.

Amazon Go has been met with excitement but has also raised concerns over customer’s privacy. Amazon Go is able to operate through the hundreds of cameras and sensors located throughout the store that track customer movement and weight. Early patents even suggest that the cameras will be able to identify a customer’s skin tone, opening the possibility of categorizing customers into gender and racial demographic columns on its database.

First reviews of this service have been overwhelmingly positive but given the personal nature of this service Amazon’s PR team must be proactive and ready to respond in the event of complaints.

Here are a few privacy related incidents and how company’s PR teams responded to customer concerns.

Uber

In November 2016, Uber added a feature to the app, which allowed it to collect user location data after the ride ended. This feature caused immediate concern among users who didn’t feel comfortable sharing their every move with the company. Uber initially released a statement saying it used the data to “improve pickups, drop-offs, customer service and to enhance safety.” Uber later responded to the backlash by ending its tracking of users after they completed their ride.

Apple

Apple recently released the iPhone X, which boasts facial recognition features, which allows users to unlock their phones. This feature was met with excitement from tech aficionados but it also raised concerns amongst users regarding security. Apple responded to these concerns by explaining specifically how Face ID works and how that information is securely stored. Apple was able to ease some of these concerns by responding quickly and thoroughly.

Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo is marketed as a digital assistant that can complete an array of tasks including play music, read books and even order a pizza. All of these features are voice activated, meaning you can simply say, “Alexa, what is the weather forecast for today?” and the device will tell you. Critics of the device worry that our voices and conversations are being recorded and stored. Others have questioned the possibility of the device being hacked and personal information being stolen. Amazon responded to some of these concerns by assuring customers that the device is not constantly listening and that it is in passive mode until it hears “wake words.” Amazon Echo’s PR team directs concerned users to its FAQ page on its website where it answers questions in-depth.

 In all of these cases the companies assured customers that their concerns were being heard and that they were responding to these issues. Responding to privacy concerns in the tech age comes down to the principles of good PR: respond quickly and be transparent.

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