Helen Buyniski is an American journalist and political commentator at RT. Follow her on Twitter @velocirapture23
Amazon’s new fitness tracker ‘Halo’ takes technological intrusion to new levels, scanning the user’s body and tracking the emotions in their voice. Even mainstream media coverage says the tech’s privacy implications are troubling.
Like most fitness trackers, the retail behemoth’s new wearable Halo monitors cardio activity, motion and sleep. Unlike most trackers, it also records body fat and voice tone – in ways that some users might find uncomfortably intrusive.
Not only can the device track your current body fat percentage (with the help of machine learning, no less!) by working with your smartphone’s camera (red alert!) to photograph you in your underwear – it can show you your ideal self using a slider that fattens and slims the 3D model it creates. Endless hours of crushing inadequacy are at your fingertips! Amazon told the Verge it has built-in safeguards against encouraging eating disorders, explaining the slider doesn’t dip below “dangerously low” levels of body fat and can’t be used by customers under 18.
More ominous is the screenless wristband’s ‘tone analysis’ feature, which purports to analyze the user’s emotions by listening to their voice. “Maybe you thought you sounded affectionate but actually sounded bored,” Amazon’s commercial for the Halo chirps, implying the device will be monitoring all social interactions so you can play them back ad infinitum, brooding over where exactly your failed attempt to pick up that fetching stranger in the bar went awry.
There are a few token gestures toward privacy – Amazon claims to delete the 3D body scans its AI generates after you finish perusing your flabby bits in excruciating detail, and the microphone that tracks your emotions supposedly remains dormant unless you “opt in” to having your feelings monitored. Your voice, Amazon claims, is never uploaded to any of its servers or heard by any humans – though Alexa users might recall they’ve heard that before.
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