There is a tale being circulated through various blogs and news channels about a man who was locked out of his home for six days for supposedly making a racist comment. When I read this story, I thought that it must be bullshit. The reason that I didn’t believe the story is that Alexa can’t be used to unlock doors. This is a simple security precaution to keep someone from yelling, “Alexa, open the door!” and gaining access to your home. Alexa devices can be used to LOCK doors or even check their status, but not to unlock them.

The second reason that this can’t be true is that most smart locks have PIN access, so even if Alexa won’t lock the doors, you can unlock them with the PIN pad. Now I am willing to admit that there are door locks out there without pin pads, so I decided to investigate. The original story appeared at It turns out that yes, the story was blown far out of proportion. The author of the story even states it in the story:

 I only lost the ability to use Alexa. My home was fine as I just used Siri or locally hosted dashboard if I wanted to change a light’s color or something of that nature…I was not truly in the dark for a week. My smart home runs mostly locally and Alexa really is just a polymorphic interface. I was just able to use Siri. Though out of habit I’d sometimes say “alexa” only for her to remind me how stupid I was.

No, this is simply a case of luddites who don’t trust that new fangled technology and are gleefully willing to believe any negative story about anything new without bothering to question it. This article should have focused on the poor customer service that Amazon delivered in this case, but instead the story became one about distrusting technology and convenience features.

I have a smart house, and many features in the house can be controlled by voice. It’s fucking cool to be able to say, “Alexa, turn on the ceiling fan,” or “Alexa, turn the thermostat down to 65 degrees,” when it gets hot in the living room. It feels like living in the future. Instead of being afraid of technology, learn to understand that you can get up and do it yourself if there is a failure there.

No, this is purely about providing confirmation for people who are opposed to any sort of technology.

Categories: Uncategorized


Toastrider · June 16, 2023 at 7:08 am

That being said, having your ‘smart’ devices connected to the Internet (as opposed to an isolated LAN) is such a stupid idea, I think people who do so should be checked to make sure they’re not involuntary brain donors.

EN2 SS · June 16, 2023 at 7:27 am

I agree with your conclusions, but to me the entire episode is a perfect example of the coming ability of the overlords to control your house. Turn your thermostat down to 65? If a “smart” one, they can turn it back up and none that I’m aware of that you can set once they take control. Use too much electricity with the thermostat at 65? The power company can turn your house off. And yes, I have an Alexa, it controls six lights and is, in my experience, dumber than the proverbial rock. Alexa, turn on light one. “Which light one? The one in the bedroom or the one in the iPhone?” There is only one light one, you stupid bitch! “okay”
Yes, I’m an old guy, I’ve always done things myself, bought Alexa for my quadriplegic wife, who is now gone but I haven’t thrown that piece of crap away. Yet.
FYI I still can not Save my name, email on this site. No problem, just irritating. I really like reading your articles and the comments, interesting bunch of misfits. 😉

tfourier · June 16, 2023 at 7:53 am

Actual the story as described did happen.

Amazon arbitrarily shut the guy out of his Amazon controlled a/c’s based on an unsubstantiated claim of “racism” by one of their employees / contractors. And the guy it seems is black.

So no surprise to anyone who work in the tech business and has been familiar with Amazons utterly toxic reputation since the the 1990’s. Even worse than MS in the Seattle area. Amazon is one of the companies I have very deliberately avoided doing business with since the mid 1990’s. Because they are such a profoundly sleazy company. Every single division. Bezos in person looks like a not very successful sleazy small town lawyer. Not an impressive person.

As for “smart houses”. Those of us “luddites” who have been writing and shipping products like IoT and RTOS devices for decades, not a single device in our homes. Because we know how they work. Most have a level of personal information surveillance and compromise that would have made Stasi back in the 1970’s/1980’s think that True Socialism had finally arrived. The True Socialist state would have been the Total Surveillance state. Not sure what that makes CCP China.

I also know exactly how the software in modern cars work. So my last car was an early 1990’s BMW and my next car will be a late 1990’s Outback. Because they have none of this software. Especially the telemetrics of the last decade or so. Older cars are also cheaper to fix. No software problems.

And I’m writing this on a Win10 laptop that was a No Internet Connection install. So all telemetrics could be disabled, system locked down and fully firewalled. And running Wireshark to make sure its as net silent as a fully locked down Win7.

Some of us know how this stuff really works. All the way down to the bare iron. And we dont trust any of it. Or the people who sell it. Especially the people who sell it.

    Divemedic · June 16, 2023 at 8:23 am

    It didn’t happen the way it’s being reported. He wasn’t locked out of his house for a week. The system doesn’t work that way.

      tfourier · June 17, 2023 at 11:09 am

      This is the story I read. It happened as described here.

      And that’s the place I’ve been going for substantive reporting of tech related stories since at least 1998. The garbled stuff you read elsewhere is, well, almost all technically incoherent verbiage. And that includes all the supposed “Tech Insider” sites.

      If The Reg’s reporters gets stuff wrong technically the commenters soon sets them straight. Pretty much everyone who knows what they are talking about in the business reads The Reg’s. And often joins in the comments scrum. Especially when the reporters get the tech / facts wrong. No matter how insignificant. Any corrections to the published stories are quickly made and noted.

        Divemedic · June 17, 2023 at 12:28 pm

        Read the link you posted, as well as the one I posted. It plainly says that the person who was locked out of his Amazon account, which would have removed his ability to control his smart home using Alexa devices. It also says that he was still able to control his smart home using Siri and through local control, so he wasn’t locked out of his house. Here is a direct quote from the article that you linked to:

        “Jackson’s smart home wasn’t entirely non-functional during this period. Most of his smart home gear, he said, is self-hosted locally, via Apple HomeKit, and not tied to an Amazon cloud service. He could still interact with some devices through Apple’s Siri assistant software.”

        I would also point you to the person who was locked out directly. This is what is called a “primary source” that is, straight from the horse’s mouth:

        “I only lost the ability to use Alexa. My home was fine as I just used Siri or locally hosted dashboard if I wanted to change a light’s color or something of that nature. “

        So he wasn’t “locked out of his house” -that was an invention by members of the press in order to generate buzz to get more clicks. The smart home systems don’t work 100% through Alexa. I know, my own home is a smart home, and Alexa is merely a voice interface that makes it more convenient. You can’t unlock doors with Alexa- it’s a safety feature to prevent burglars from shouting through the window for Alexa to unlock the door. The most losing Alexa functionality does is force you to use your dashboard to control your smart devices.

Elrod · June 16, 2023 at 9:05 am

What? The media got the facts wrong and over-hyped it?

I’m shocked, absolutely shocked, I tell you.

nick flandrey · June 16, 2023 at 9:44 am

He wasn’t locked out of his house for a week.

— yeah, but that isn’t the salient point. As noted above, amazon took immediate and unilateral action to deny a customer some service based on an unsubstantiated and irrelevant complaint from an employee. How they did it and to what extent is mostly beside the point. That they DID it is what people should take away from the article.

“Smarthome” and IoT adoption is still in the beginning stages. What happens in a year, or 5? What happens when it’s not a door lock or a light switch but something more central to your life?

Is there a court of appeals or a review process? What are the thought crimes that would cause amazon to take action? If they deny your appeal do you have to replace everything with hardware from another vendor? This is just the beginning of a slippery slope where your comfortable life depends on someone else’s evaluation of yours. Have an unapproved or unpopular thought? No xxxxx for you!. It’s deplatforming in real life.

I’m not opposed to home automation. I even install it and support it for one of my clients. But I don’t have any that is internet connected in my own home, or that is dependent on the continued goodwill of a provider.


    Divemedic · June 16, 2023 at 10:49 am

    No business should be forced to do business with anyone. I support Amazon in their decision to not do business with anyone, just as I support a bakery that doesn’t want to bake a cake for a gay wedding

      Anonymous · June 16, 2023 at 5:22 pm

      And they presumably have fine print somewhere that says that what(ever) they did was legal. But that’s more or less the point; if they retain the right to turn something off, and having that thing turned on matters to me, I’m not going to do business with them.

      I do have some Kindle books, but keep it firmly in mind that I don’t “own” them in the usual sense; they might go away at Amazon’s whim. It’s much preferable to purchase ebooks that I want to keep in the form of simple downloadable files that can be copied and backed up.

      Elrod · June 16, 2023 at 7:01 pm

      I have no problem with Amazon, or any other business, choosing to not engage in business with particular people or other particular businesses. But….where is the documented set of standards that drive that decision and how do customers, and potential customers, access it so it’s known what the rules are before one commits to a business arrangement?

      Amazon has the right to choose their customers; the customers have an equal right to choose their suppliers. If only one side knows the rules, or the rules change randomly it places one side – the customer in this case – at a substantial disadvantage.

Unknownsailor · June 17, 2023 at 10:38 pm

IOT devices are notorious for lax or non-existent security. Devices like Alexa must have their microphones on 24/7 to hear when they are called on. Amazon employees have already been busted listening to conversations occurring within range of Alexa devices.

Utility such devices may have, but I will not have one in my house. Not now, and not ever. They are currently completely untrustworthy, and from what I can see, no one is trying to make them that way at all.

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