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How Amazon Photos Goes Too Far During COVID-19: Jeff Kagan

How Amazon Photos doesn't understand how it is hurting many of its users during COVID-19.
Equities columnist Jeff Kagan is a telecom, technology and wireless analyst and consultant. He covers 5G, AI, IoT, the metaverse, autonomous driving, healthcare, telehealth, pay TV and more. Follow him at and on Twitter @jeffkagan and LinkedIn.
Equities columnist Jeff Kagan is a telecom, technology and wireless analyst and consultant. He covers 5G, AI, IoT, the metaverse, autonomous driving, healthcare, telehealth, pay TV and more. Follow him at and on Twitter @jeffkagan and LinkedIn.

Image: Screenshot, April 7, 2021. Source: Amazon

Let me share two different stories with you and ask your opinion. One story brought smiles to a user. The other, tears. This is about how Amazon Photos sent an album of photos to users who store them on the site. Some photos show pictures of struggling through COVID-19 and even death. This was not asked for by the user. Let’s explore if Amazon Photos is breaching privacy and hurting customers.

I am not saying Amazon is a bad company. Short-sighted, maybe. Bad, no. Either way, this is a real problem that needs immediate attention from Amazon Photos executives.

The first real question is this: Who gave Amazon the right and permission to violate the personal privacy of their users? Amazon Photos uses AI to gather, produce and present a photo album of an event or a time period of their users.

This sounds like something users would appreciate. And most do. However, all users are not alike. Many photos are to record an event or a time, happy or sad.

Some events, like the COVID-19 death of a loved relative or close friend are a definite no-no that one might think an AI ought to be able to discern when sifting for photos. Yet it happens.

After a time like that through which we have lived with so many COVID-19 deaths, many users would prefer not to be reminded and even shocked by photos of a dead relative or friend coming out of nowhere.

How Amazon Photo, Apple Photo, Android Photo hurt users

This problem may not only be with Amazon Photos. It may also come with Apple Photos from the iPhone and iPad and from Android Photos from smartphones and tablets and other similar services that run Android.

Thank goodness I never received a production of music and photos of my dead father lying in the hospital bed from a decade ago. That may be because there were no photo services like we have today. I am happy because it would have been too cruel to handle.

Today, Amazon Photos sends this to users, even though they are still dealing with the tidal wave of loss. This is wrong.

Artificial intelligence creates Amazon Photo productions

It is not like these photos are selected by or even approved by human beings. Instead, these companies use artificial intelligence to create a photo album, set it to music and email it to the customer.

These two examples I am talking about have photos of a loved one struggling through Covid-19, then dying. One party loved it and was happy to get it. The other hated it, both the violation of privacy and the reminder of loss. Both cried.

This Amazon Photos practice sounds like something nice to receive, but in reality, to many it can be very hurtful and an unwelcome and unhappy surprise.

What gives Amazon Photos the right to invade privacy?

What gives Amazon Photos or any other photo service the right to use AI on your photos – to see your property – without your permission?

Perhaps there was permission given in the outrageously long Terms of Service most companies use and very few users actually read?

It doesn’t really matter, doing this may make some people happy, but it also may make many others very upset. That’s what matters.

This shocking practice breaches the privacy of the customer. It breaks a trust between the company and its users.

Violating privacy without user permission destroys relationships

That’s why companies should not do this. Period. It instantly destroys the relationship and the trust they have built with the customer over time.

Unless this is obviously disclosed and the customer gives permission, this practice is simply wrong on every level. And something that should be stopped immediately.

At the very least, it should be an opt-in feature the customer has to choose. Even that is not sufficient since a customer can opt-in before a crisis then hate it when they get the photo album.

I don’t think Amazon is a bad company, but it may be a company that has grown so large that it lacks compassion. Whatever group made this decision thought it might be good marketing but didn't think view it from the perspective of the customer.

AI can be a double-edged sword

There are so many good companies creating good technology using AI, IoT, the cloud and more. There is nothing wrong with that.

AI used correctly only advances our society. AI used without a human brain can be dangerous and hurtful without even realizing it.

Something needs to be done right away to correct this problem before more people are hurt and more tears are shed.

Not every photo is a happy memory. Sometimes users want to capture an important moment in their life which is very sad, just to have it documented.

So, while I like and respect, there are areas where it misses the target and should make corrections ASAP. This is a matter of respect for their users or customers… or in this case, disrespect.


Jeff Kagan is an Equities News columnist. Kagan is a Wireless Analyst, Technology Analyst and Commentator who follows Telecom, Pay TV, Cloud, AI, IoT, Tele Health, Healthcare, Automotive, Self-Driving cars and more. Email him at [email protected] His web site is Follow him on Twitter @jeffkagan and LinkedIn


Equities Columnist: Jeff Kagan

Source: Equities News

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