Does technology judge our behavior? A misunderstanding left a man unable to use his smart home

A man claims to have suffered a “blackout” of his smart home after an Amazon delivery driver mistakenly accused him of being a racist.

Brandon Jackson, who works as an engineer at Microsoft, said the “unexpected and unwarranted” digital exile began the day after he had a package delivered to his home in the United States last month, failing to interact with any of his smart devices.

“It wasn’t just a simple inconvenience,” Jackson wrote in a blog post detailing his ordeal.

“I have a smart home and my primary means of interacting with all devices and automations is through Alexa on Amazon Echo devices. This incident left me with a house full of unusable devices, a mute Alexa and a lot of questions.”

After contacting Amazon, the tech worker was informed that his account had been blocked due to a report of a delivery driver claiming to have received racist comments.

Footage from the home’s smart doorbell appeared to show that the delivery driver, who Jackson said was the same race as him, misheard an automated response from the device asking, “Excuse me, can I help you?”

After sending the images to Amazon, the tech giant launched an investigation and eventually unblocked the account nearly a week later.

“I fully support Amazon taking steps to ensure the safety of its drivers,” Jackson noted.

“However, I wonder why my entire smart home system had to be rendered unusable during their internal investigation… Because of this experience, I am seriously considering stopping using Amazon Echo devices and will warn others about this incident.”

The problem does not only concern Amazon, Jackson clarified, but all technology companies that produce smart home appliances and devices.

“If you buy a device, you own it, no matter who you are,” he noted in a video detailing his experience.

“If you bought a toaster, no matter what you did, how bad a person you are or how good a person you are, you still own the toaster… And if you really did something that horrible and bad, Amazon, Google or Apple shouldn’t take action on it.”

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