retail news in context, analysis with attitude

…with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

• Amazon has been getting grief about the fact that teams of employees have been listening selectively to people using its Alexa-powered systems as a way to improve voice recognition capabilities; while Amazon said that this was only being done as a way of helping Alexa to get “smarter,” it concerned privacy experts that Alexa, essentially, always has access to users’ homes and offices.

Now, Bloomberg reports that teams of employees may also be looking at footage from the Cloud Cam security devices that it has been selling to consumers.

According to the story, "Dozens of Amazon workers based in India and Romania review select clips captured by Cloud Cam, according to five people who have worked on the program or have direct knowledge of it. Those video snippets are then used to train the AI algorithms to do a better job distinguishing between a real threat (a home invader) and a false alarm (the cat jumping on the sofa) … At one point, on a typical day, some Amazon auditors were each annotating about 150 video recordings, which were  typically 20 to 30 seconds long, according to the people, who requested anonymity to talk about an internal program."

I have no problem with this. Amazon's interests seem to driven by a desire to make the technology better, as opposed to anything prurient. But … I think that it is in Amazon's best interests to not just disclose these systems, but be really upfront about them. Small print here in the "terms and conditions" just won't cut it anymore.


• The Wall Street Journal reports that Dollar General is planning to begin testing a new click-and-collect option, looking to build a competency in an area already developed by competitors such as Walmart and Target.

According to the story, "Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at market-research firm NPD Group Inc., said the move could help the company attract customers between the ages of 21 and 37, who are set to become more cost-conscious as the economy shows signs of cooling down. Historically, Dollar General’s average consumer has been between 35 and 55, Mr. Cohen said. The younger demographic is digitally savvy and 'all about convenience,' he said. 'Nobody even wants to get out of the car anymore'."
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