There are good and bad ways of responding to negative reviews of your product. You can take the criticism on board and attempt to rectify the situation with the customer. Or you can remotely lock them out of their garage.
One R. Martin from Tulsa, Oklahoma found this out the hard way. After having problems with their 'Garadget', an app that allows you to remotely control your garage door, they left a hasty one-star review on Amazon and posted criticism on the product's own forum.
R. Martin doesn't mince his or her words. But the manufacturer didn't take kindly to this and replied scornfully on the product forum, calling out the customer for "abusive language" and having "poor impulse control".
The manufacturer, who replied under the name Garadget, then said that the customer's unit would "be denied a server connection".
What this means is that the manufacturer was able to identify the buyer and remotely disable their device – in this case, their own garage door. It's not unheard of for people to be banned for online communities for complaining about products, but this is the first time we've heard of someone getting banned from their own garage as a result of a bad Amazon review.
We hope that R. Martin in Tulsa is still able to open their garage door manually, but this episode raises questions about the flaws of connectivity and the enormous responsibilities we give tech companies, seemingly without much scrutiny. If a relatively small outfit like Garadget – take a look at their Indiegogo crowdfunding page here – can summarily interfere with a user's home, it doesn't take much to imagine similar meddling with, say, connected cars.
Self-driving vehicles are poised to become a much bigger part of British life. These machines are expected to be able to make life-or-death decisions within five years, outpacing legislation and in some ways even our understanding of ethics. But if the makers of an app are able to remotely disable parts of a user's house, there are very serious implications about what this might mean for the vulnerabilities of driverless technology. We wouldn't want Garadget to have anything to do with a moving vehicle, that's for sure.
Is the user a victim of terrible customer service, or is Garadget entitled to behave the way it has? And is this situation an unfortunate side-effect of the march of progress, or a horrifying vision of a dystopian, connected world? Let us know in the comments.