Don't Freak Out About Amazon's House-Scanning Drones

The recently patented design would be a strictly opt-in service.

Amazon officially received the patent Tuesday for tech that would allow its planned drone delivery service to analyze customers’ homes and offer recommendations on things they might want to buy.

The company files for patents for plenty of designs that may or may not ever see the light of day — consider its idea for an underwater warehouse — but this particular idea fits more naturally with Amazon’s plans to make products that help organize users’ lives. And, at first blush, the idea of a drone scanning your home to see what items need replacing sounds like a further erosion of traditional ideas of privacy, especially if the drone is able to do more than just recommend a rake for leaves or a new welcome mat and actually see inside your home to make its suggestions.

But it’s important to keep in mind a key detail from the patent filing: This would strictly be a voluntary, opt-in service. Here’s the relevant section from the filing, which stresses that only people who want a drone scanning their house for recommended buys would get that particular experience.

As such, users who wish to participate in the features described herein that are associated with the data analysis service may opt-in and authorize audio, visual, or other suitable data to be captured and analyzed by the unmanned aerial vehicles as they deliver items. Users who do not wish to participate in or be associated with the data analysis service may opt-out and avoid data to be captured by the unmanned aerial vehicles as they deliver items or travel from a source destination to a delivery destination as described herein. Instructions may be provided to the unmanned aerial vehicles to turn off or cease capturing data for locations that correspond to users that have opted-out and/or the delivery plan for the unmanned aerial vehicles may be modified to divert from or avoid altogether locations associated with the opted-out users.

Amazon declined to comment on the story, as its policy is not to comment on patents.