Wacky Indoor Amazon Drone Takes On Privacy Skeptics

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It could be the wackiest product yet from Amazon — a tiny indoor drone which buzzes around people’s homes as a security sentry.

The introduction of the Ring Always Home Cam planned for 2021 has opened up fresh debate on the potential for intrusive surveillance and privacy infringement.

Amazon says the tiny drone is “built with privacy in mind” and operates at the direction of its customers. Nestled in a charging dock, the drone can be deployed remotely and send up to five minutes of video to the user.

But some activists express concerns about the device — part of a family of Ring-branded home security technology which has been scrutinized over its links to law enforcement.

John Verdi, vice president of policy at the Future of Privacy Forum, a Washington think tank, said the deployment may contribute to a “normalization of surveillance” in everyday life as more consumers install devices that listen and see inside the home.

Amazon's new indoor drone can be deployed by a homeowner to check for security issues, but some activists say it may make people inured to video surveillance Amazon’s new indoor drone can be deployed by a homeowner to check for security issues, but some activists say it may make people inured to video surveillance Photo: Ring / Handout

“When cameras and microphones and other sensors are deployed in private spaces like living rooms and bedrooms, that leads to an acceptance of everyday surveillance,” Verdi said.

Nonetheless, Verdi noted that “Amazon has put some thought into privacy protections for this product both in the hardware and in the software policies.”

University of Washington law professor and privacy researcher Ryan Calo noted that even the perception of being watched can make people change behavior.

With any form of electronic monitoring, “you feel like there is a social agent in your midst,” Calo said.

“A camera like this can make people feel observed and threatens one of the few remaining opportunities for

Nikola Pushes Back on Skeptics by Showcasing In-House Tech

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(Bloomberg) — Nikola Corp. wants to put allegations of deception behind it with a push to showcase its own innovations and detail how it plans to get its clean-powered trucks to market.

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Executives at the embattled startup are talking to investors to rebut criticism it has no working prototypes and to clarify its business plans after the resignation of founder and former Chairman Trevor Milton. That effort includes highlighting technology with existing or pending patents, explaining the role partners will play and providing better milestones on efforts to start production.

“Our message is the same as it was before,” said Chief Executive Officer Mark Russell in an interview. “We have an ecosystem of partners that have validated what we’re doing. We believe we’re within three years of producing a fuel cell truck and one year of producing a battery-powered truck.”

Nikola executives will also use planned and direct communication to media and investors instead of the social media posts that Milton favored, according to people familiar with the company’s plans, who asked not to be identified.

The charm offensive is an attempt to counter investor skepticism about Nikola’s business model in the wake of a short-seller report last month that questioned the company’s capabilities and claims of progress. Nikola has denied misrepresenting itself, but federal regulators are reportedly examining the allegations against the company and Milton, who has been accused of unrelated harassment claims that he denies.

Shares of the company have fallen almost 50% from their price after going public in June through a reverse merger. The stock pared a decline of as much as 9.3% on Tuesday, trimming losses in early afternoon trading. The stock was down 6.2% to $18.10 as of 1:30 p.m. in New York.

Patents and Software

Nikola has forged technology-sharing relationships with