You've got a nagging feeling you forgot to close the garage. But you're gone for the weekend. What to do? Someday soon, you might be able to summon an Amazon drone to check on that garage door for you.

It's one of the situations outlined in the patent Amazon just secured, in which customers could subscribe to 'surveillance as a service.' Amazon's patent outlines how a delivery drone could take images and video of your home, then send you an alert if anything looks awry. The drone could look out for other 'surveillance events' including broken windows, graffiti, or a fire. 

Delivery drones doing home surveillance raises privacy concerns

You'd have to opt in to the service. Amazon says it'd only take photos of your property if you hired them to do so. But what if your neighbor hired the drone and it captured video that included footage of your home? 

Amazon addresses this concern in the patent itself. There are a couple ways they'd go about making sure the drones don't capture footage from homes that don't want it. First, the drones would be subject to geo-fencing. "The geo-fence... may correspond to a property line associated with the surveillance location," the patent explains. The patent also says photos and video footage could be edited to mask or blur parts captured outside the surveillance location. 

John Tagle, a public relations manager for Amazon, further address privacy concerns in a statement sent to media companies:

"Patents take multiple years to receive and do not necessarily reflect our current product roadmap. We take customer privacy very seriously. Some reports have suggested that this technology would spy or gather data on homes without authorization - to be clear, that's not what the patent says. The patent clearly states that it would be an opt-in service available to customers who authorize monitoring of their home."

Amazon first filed for the surveillance patent in 2015. Like all patents, this doesn't necessarily mean their plans for surveillance drones are confirmed. Many patents never go on to become real products or services. But it does provide insight into Amazon's future plans for drone technology. ​

Published on: Jul 1, 2019
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