I’m no privacy freak, but yeah — that’s a little creepy


Actually, the headline sort of said it all.

Today, I got a notification that something my wife had ordered from Amazon had been delivered to my home.

Wondering what it was (apparently, some frozen treats for grandchildren), I clicked, and got the above page.

Yeah, that’s my red front door in the picture.

I can see a practical reason to do this. For instance, Amazon delivery folks tend to put our packages in different places (inside the garage if that door is open, the mailbox, etc.) and sometimes we have to hunt around to confirm that yes, Alexa is right — something has arrived.

But this still bothers me a little bit. Not much, but a bit. Mainly because I wasn’t expecting it. It’s like having some stranger say, “Look, here’s you on a surveillance camera…”

It doesn’t do me any harm that I can tell, but it’s weird…

44 thoughts on “I’m no privacy freak, but yeah — that’s a little creepy

  1. Jeff Jordan

    It looks like you just posted your address, which is probably not what you meant if you are worried about privacy.

    The popsicles are “otter pops” which go with your street name.

    1. David T

      I don’t quite get the issue with it, I could open up this site and see the unsmudged address, or I could open up whitepages.com type in his name and see his address. It’s like people who block out the license plate of pictures of their vehicles, I can see the license plate as you’re driving down he road.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Yeah, I do that when I show pictures of cars. Not sure why. I think it’s to spare that person any association with what I’m saying. But that’s kind of silly, I suppose. Who is going to be able to identify that person by the tag?

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    My wife corrects me: It’s not frozen treats themselves, but “the reusable ice-pop molds I ordered.”

    Another bid to save the planet from plastic wrappers, apparently. She does things like that.

    And for her part, her reaction to the picture of our door is, “That is cool!”

  3. Doug Ross

    But you aren’t bothered if the government collects “metadata” on all your phones calls? I bet you can opt out of the Amazon photos.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Oh, and to be clear… the Amazon thing doesn’t particularly bother me. I just thought it was a little creepy to suddenly receive that picture without expecting it…

        I don’t want to set off another long philosophical argument that will never end in agreement, but yes, I am bothered more by private entities who have ZERO accountability to me, and who are totally out for their own profit.

        You know how you’re always accusing people in public service of being out for themselves? Well, there’s no question about it here. Amazon is out for the greater profit of Amazon, period. That’s not saying anything bad about them; that’s their role in this universe.

        They’re not doing it on my behalf the way a government agency screening for patterns that point to terrorist activity. Can that be abused? Sure! That’s why we have safeguards, with the FISA system, that involve all three branches of government having to check off. At Amazon, nobody’s looking over their shoulders but Amazon…

        All of that said, again, it doesn’t REALLY bother me. But if something did, it would be what the private sector does. That is SUPER intrusive, and it happens all day long. We tolerate it because it’s convenient for us; it facilitates the delivery of services we value. But it’s intrusive…

        1. Doug Ross

          Except you can opt out of the private sector option AND you actually know what Amazon did. AND Amazon will be much more responsive than the government would be if people started complaining. There isn’t any accountability at the NSA level. It’s naive to think there is.

          1. Doug Ross

            From Amazon’s help screen — took all of ten seconds to find this:

            For orders shipped to an address marked confidential, such as a Wish List or Registry address, Amazon won’t post a delivery photo on the order in order to protect the privacy of the recipient. How to Stop Photo on Delivery
            You can opt out of Photo on Delivery by contacting Customer Service.

            Now – tell me how I stop the government from monitoring my phone calls.

            1. Doug Ross

              I just opted out of the photo on delivery using a chat window with Amazon support. It took 4 minutes total time.

              Let me run down to the DMV and see how that process works. My last time trying to get a title changed took me multiple trips, multiple missing faxes, and a 15 minute wait.

              1. bud

                I almost never have a problem dealing with a government agency. Not so private companies.

              2. Brad Warthen Post author

                Doug, you seem to be supposing that I think this is a problem to which I need a solution. Thanks for trying to help, but I’m fine. I don’t care whether they send me pictures of my front door or not.

                This was just a little slice-of-life thing, in which I received a picture I wasn’t expecting, and it felt a little weird. That’s it.

                If I thought it a real problem, how would checking that box solve it? The delivery person would still have been standing there looking at my door in my absence. Not sending me a picture doesn’t change that fact. In fact, sending the picture informs me that this stranger was on my property, which I think I’d (slightly) rather know than not know.

                In the balance of things, having that person on my property looking at my door is not a bad thing. I contracted with Amazon to have this happen. It is a convenience to me. And sending me the picture adds an element of transparency to the event.

                I’m just sharing that, not expecting it, it felt a little funny. That’s all. I’ll get over it.

                I think on some level, my posting this was an effort on my part to express some fellow feeling with my friends out there who worry about privacy, while I generally do not. I was just saying yeah, I see how something like this might make you feel funny. So we have something in common….

                1. Doug Ross

                  I guess I don’t get it. Did you feel funny in the past knowing a UPS or Fedex person left a package on your porch? I would guess they looked at your door, too. And the water meter reader probably walks on your property, too.

                  Amazon provides the photo service probably due to the large number of packages that get stolen… or to make sure their delivery people are doing their jobs.

  4. bud

    Speaking of privacy. Several states are banning the use of cameras to ticket folks running red lights. Given the terrible carnage on our highways this privacy concern seems misguided.

    1. Doug Ross

      The red light cameras are about money, not safety. Didn’t know there were a lot of red lights on our highways.

      1. Mark Stewart

        Yes, I would be okay with them conceptually, except everywhere they are used they are abused. As with digital parking meters, companies offer the equipment for a low (or no) upfront to municipalities and then take a cut of the ticket revenue. That’s where the model breaks down; there is every incentive to abuse the public – way, way more than a cop with a monthly ticket quota.

        The problem with the red light tickets is the equipment was never set up to just catch people who run red lights, they always set the cameras to catch anyone who enters an intersection late – with no human understanding (such as a police officer would have) of what is unfolding dynamically – like trying to make a left turn against heavy traffic. That was the greed. Same with the speed traps.

        Outsourcing enforcement is like outsourcing fire protection, Bud. It’s just a bad idea.

        1. Doug Ross

          And there are numerous cases of local politicians taking kickbacks from the companies that provide the red light services in order to steer the procurement process their way.

          If we want to make it about safety, the government should own and operate the cameras BUT there should be no fines – only a notification to the insurance company and then let them determine whether to raise the insurance rates for those offenders.

          But because it is about generating revenue, that can’t happen.

        2. clark surratt

          Speed traps are great. My definition of that is local police who frequently cite people for clearly driving over the speed limit. This promotes safety. I wish every day that my town was a speed trap. And if not, at least put up a sign at town limits declaring this area is a speed trap.

      2. bud

        Anything can be abused. Wells Fargo is no stranger to abuse but does that mean we have to abandon banks? Chipotle has poisoned it’s customers at least 3 times but does anyone suggest a burrito ban. Ford shamelessly decided to forego an inexpensive fix that might have prevented Pintos from incinerating but do we ban autos? Of course not. But vehicle crashes kill upwards of 35000 people every year. (It was over 50000 in the early 70s but thanks to government safety advocates that number is down to what it is today). Isn’t it worth a small risk that something might be abused in order to reduce this carnage? That is what is called penny wise but pound foolish. (Thanks to the Daily Kos for that Cliché) 🙂

        1. Doug Ross

          How many lives have been saved by red light cameras? And at what cost? Let’s see the data. Most of the red light cameras I have ever seen have been in busy downtown intersections where cars are running lights, rarely going over 30 MPH so little chance of deaths. It’s a scam.

          1. David T

            The counties would make millions just off of red light runners in this state. I do believe the SC driver’s license exam correct answer is “When the light turns red, the initial vehicle plus the next three vehicles are allowed to proceed through the intersection.”

  5. Mr. Smith

    People who invite Alexa into their homes have no cause to be bothered by any kind of intrusion into their privacy.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Alexa is interesting. So far I’m not overly impressed by her intelligence, but she’s interesting.

      All she gets used for at our house is:

      1. Playing music. I particularly like asking her to play music from a certain year — although she makes a lot of errors, sometimes playing things that were released two or three years earlier or later.
      2. The weather. Which of course is of limited usefulness. She gets it right about as often as my phone.
      3. Turning on the light in my upstairs office.

      My wife thinks the last one is ridiculous. I just do it because I wanted to have one bit of “smart” functionality in my home, just to see what it was like.

      Usually, when I go upstairs to do something at my computer, all the lights are off. So as I get to the top of the stairs, I say to the Echo Dot on my desk, “Alexa, turn on the light.” Initially, she insisted that I say “the office light,” but she has apparently accepted that there is only one light in question.

      It was really no trouble to take a step or two into the dark and turn on my desk lamp by hand, but I just wanted to be able to do this trick.

      Thing is, she has trouble even with this simple thing. Last night and this morning, she started doing this thing where she doesn’t respond to my command for several seconds. And then, finally, she says, “The office light is not responding.” Thing is, the instant that she starts saying that, the light responds. So I say, “Yes, it is,” while she blathers on about checking the connection or the setting or some such.

      So it is that I say I’m not yet blown away by the intelligence of the device…

    2. Bart

      Agree with you Mr. Smith. I tried Alexa in my office and living room so I could converse with my wife while working. It worked a few times and then the problems started. Now the Alexa devices are gathering dust until I donate them to a local charity.

    3. Brad Warthen Post author

      In any case, I don’t find Alexa very threatening.

      Of course, I could be wrong. Perhaps one day she’ll suddenly say, “Here comes a candle to light you to bed, here comes a chopper to chop off your head!”

      … and the bully boys will come crashing through my doors and windows, and take me off to Room 101 for my meeting with O’Brien.

      But I’m doubting it…

  6. Bart

    I know this is off topic but thought it would be a great article to share. This is from the NYT about Ernie Pyle, the famous correspondent of WWII. The name of the article is, “The Man Who Told America the Truth About D-Day”. I encourage everyone to read it. This is an excerpt from the article.

    “Pyle’s second report from the Normandy beaches, published 10 days after D-Day, was markedly different from anything he had ever previously filed. “It was a lovely day for strolling along the seashore,” he wrote, reeling the reader in with a cheerful opening. “Men were sleeping on the sand, some of them sleeping forever. Men were floating in the water, but they didn’t know they were in the water, for they were dead.” Pyle cataloged the vast wreckage of military matériel, the “scores of tanks and trucks and boats” resting at the bottom of the Channel, jeeps “burned to a dull gray” and halftracks blasted “into a shambles by a single shell hit.” Some reassurances followed to soften the unvarnished fact — the losses were an acceptable price for the victory, Pyle said — but he hadn’t shied away from showing his readers the corpses and “the awful waste and destruction of war.” Pyle was working up to something he hadn’t done before.

    The next day, June 17, newspapers across the country published Pyle’s third column describing the D-Day beachhead. By allowing the objects he saw in the sand to tell an eloquent story of loss, Pyle showed his readers the true cost of the fighting, without explicitly describing the blood and mangled bodies. “It extends in a thin little line, just like a high-water mark, for miles along the beach,” Pyle wrote about the detritus of the battle. “Here in a jumbled row for mile on mile are soldiers’ packs. Here are socks and shoe polish, sewing kits, diaries, Bibles and hand grenades. Here are the latest letters from home. . . . Here are toothbrushes and razors, and snapshots of families back home staring up at you from the sand. Here are pocketbooks, metal mirrors, extra trousers and bloody, abandoned shoes.”

    I will admit my eyes teared up reading this article and it is a powerful reminder of the ultimate price soldiers pay in combat. It will make anyone pause for a moment and think about the price of war and the real destruction of the humanity when young people have to face such a horrendous sight like the one at Normandy on this day in history.

    A personal anecdote about my Uncle Harvey. Before he went to war, he was a minor league baseball player from Tennessee on the way up to the majors. He had a wicked fast ball and curve ball and could hit as well. His future was bright and full of promise but WWII come along and he did what every patriotic male did, he enlisted and didn’t wait to be drafted.

    When Uncle Harvey returned home, he was different. Aunt Lola almost didn’t recognize him and it took a while for them to get to know each other again. Uncle Harvey left behind the best of who he was after witnessing and being engaged in some of the worst battles in Europe. He started to drink to get relief from the nightmares about the horrors he witnessed. His baseball career was over and he had problems holding a job. My aunt would have to leave and come home to NC at least once a year when he was at his worst. The VA didn’t do anything to help him because “shellshock” and exposure to massive dead bodies was not a “thing” to be reckoned with in some places at the time. Eventually Uncle Harvey’s life was lost when he fell asleep on the couch after drinking too much and smoking. His life ended in pain and agony according to reports but at least his mental and emotional pain was gone and he found some peace in the end. I haven’t thought about him in a long time but this article brought back the memories of my aunt and what she and my cousin had to endure as a result of what Uncle Harvey endured during his time in a world war.

    On this day, we need to honor and remember the thousands of young men who were in the first and second waves to invade the beaches of Normandy. And we need to hope and pray that we never have to face another day like this one ever again. The “Greatest Generation” is slowly dying out and unfortunately along with their passing, so are the things they did to earn the title.

    1. Bob Amundson

      I am humbled by the courage these soldiers showed; I can’t imagine myself doing anything so brave. Hearing the descriptions of the battle, especially the reddish-pink color of the ocean water, always moves me. It is sad to hear these heroes admit this may be the last time they visit Normandy.

    2. Mark Stewart

      Eloquent and thoughtful, Bart. We are loosing an important anchor to our democracy and our Republic as this generation passes from our lives. They shall not yet be forgotten, however. Personally, I hope they inspire us all to remember today (and tomorrow) our common connections and purpose. And the sacrifice we choose to make today, or not, for future generations.

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