Man locked out of smart home for a week after delivery driver accuses him of being racist

‘Unexpected and unwarranted’ exile began after Amazon driver misheard a response from a smart doorbell

Anthony Cuthbertson
Thursday 15 June 2023 13:15 BST
<p>Microsoft engineer Brendon Jackson said he was unable to interact with any of his smart home devices between 25 May and 31 May, 2023 </p>

Microsoft engineer Brendon Jackson said he was unable to interact with any of his smart home devices between 25 May and 31 May, 2023

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A man claims to have suffered a week-long smart home “lockout” after an Amazon delivery driver mistakenly accused him of being racist.

Brandon Jackson, who works as an engineer at Microsoft, said the “unexpected and unwarranted” digital exile began the day after a package was delivered to his home in the US last month, when he found himself unable to interact with any of his smart devices.

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

“I have a smart home, and my primary means of interfacing with all the devices and automations is through Amazon Echo devices via Alexa. This incident left me with a house full of unresponsive devices, a silent Alexa, and a lot of questions.”

After contacting Amazon, the tech worker was told that his account had been locked due to a report from a delivery driver who claimed to have received racist remarks.

Recordings from the home’s smart doorbell appeared to show the delivery driver, whom Mr Jackson said was the same race as him, misheard an automated response from the device asking: “excuse me, can I help you?”

After submitting the footage to Amazon, the tech giant began an investigation and finally unlocked the account nearly a week later.

“I fully support Amazon taking measures to ensure the safety of their drivers,” Mr Jackson said.

“However, I question why my entire smart home system had to be rendered unusable during their internal investigation... Due to this experience, I am seriously considering discontinuing my use of Amazon Echo devices and will caution others about this incident.”

The issue does not just concern Amazon, Mr Jackson said, but all tech firms that produce smart home appliances and devices.

“If you buy a device you own it, and that’s regardless of who you are,” he said in a video detailing his experience.

“If you bought a toaster, it doesn’t matter what you did, how bad of a person you are, or how good of a person you are, you still own the toaster... And if you really did do something so horrible and bad, that shouldn’t be Amazon or Google or Apple’s call to do anything about that.”

The Independent has reached out to Amazon for comment.

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