Categories
Surveillance Capitalism

Amazon Adds Illegal Drones to Illegal Ring

https://www.vice.com/en/article/z3vvga/amazons-surveillance-drones-violate-fcc-rules-its-time-to-enforce-them

Excerpt:

The walls may not yet have ears, but nearly everything else in the typical American household does. With digital assistants and a growing list of increasingly invasive “internet of things” devices, we’re constantly being monitored by the likes of Siri, Alexa, Ring, and Google. These constant companions have not only become more prevalent, they’re also becoming more powerful.

Amazon’s newest home spy tool, Ring Always Home Cam, is an indoor camera-enabled drone. The flying robot independently dislodges from its base to investigate noises or periodically patrol your house when it senses no one is home. While a static camera can be controlled, this Ring-enabled drone will use Amazon’s home surveillance platform to record everyone and everything it sees.

We often think of a Big Brother mass-surveillance state being imposed by governments, when in reality we are building it ourselves with the devices we willingly purchase. What many people don’t realize is that these invasive products are already illegal in the US—it’s just that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) hasn’t been enforcing its own rules.

Under an FCC rule from 1989, people are barred from using devices capable of “overhearing or recording the private conversations of others unless such use is authorized by all of the parties engaging in the conversation.” In short: you can’t install your own wiretap.

AUTHORS:

Albert Fox Cahn is the founder and executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (S.T.O.P.) at the Urban Justice Center and a fellow at the Engelberg Center for Innovation Law & Policy at N.Y.U. School of Law.

Evan Greer is an activist, musician, and writer based in Boston. She is the deputy director of the viral digital rights group Fight for the Future, and writes regularly for the Washington Post, The Guardian, Buzzfeed, and Wired.

Categories
Amazon/Whole Foods Monopoly Power Boycott Amazon Campaign

Amazon Refuses to Sell Book on COVID-Capitalism Connection

Categories
Boycott Amazon Campaign Surveillance Capitalism

Ring Doorbells Subject to Recall Over Fire Hazard

In addition to dangers to privacy and  being a step towards a “total surveillance society” hooked into law enforcement, Amazon’s Ring doorbells have been the subject of a recall by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission over a threat of causing fires. Some 350,000 units in the U.S. and 8,700 in Canada are being recalled over fire and burn concerns. The devices were on sale through Amazon’s sites and retail locations.

https://www.cpsc.gov/Recalls/2020/ring-recalls-video-doorbells-2nd-generation-due-to-fire-hazard

According to the CPSC, “This recall involves Ring Video Doorbell (2nd Generation), model number 5UM5E5 smart doorbell cameras.  The video doorbells have a blue ring at the front and come in two color combinations:  (black and silver) and (black and bronze).  They were sold with a mounting bracket and a USB charging cable.  The two-way audio doorbell can be hardwired or battery-powered and supports night vision[Emphasis added.]

“The Ring logo is printed on the bottom front of the doorbell and the model and serial number are on a label on the back of the doorbell and the outer packaging.  Consumers can determine if their doorbell is included in this recall by entering the doorbell’s serial number at http://support.ring.com/ring-2nd-gen-recall. Only Ring Video Doorbell (2nd Generation) models with certain serial numbers are included.”

The recall, joined in by Canada, notes that the doorbells are imported by Ring LLC of Santa Monica, CA from China. Perhaps we should consider Ring of Santa Monica as a site for a protest of Amazon’s surveillance activities and other involvements.

The CSPC advises that: “Consumers should immediately stop installing the recalled video doorbells and contact Ring for revised installation instructions or download them here.  Consumers can check if their video doorbell is part of this recall through Ring’s website or app.”
There have been a number of reported incidents or injuries:

The CSPC says that Ring has received 85 incident reports of incorrect doorbell screws installed with 23 of those doorbells igniting, resulting in minor property damage.  The firm has received eight reports of minor burns.

Categories
Boycott Amazon Campaign Surveillance Capitalism

Palantir Extending Reach into British COVID Contact Tracing

https://www.cnbc.com/amp/2020/11/04/palantir-in-talks-to-help-britain-with-covid-contact-tracing.html

Excerpt:

The U.K. government is considering using software from U.S. data analytics firm Palantir for coronavirus contact tracing in England, according to reports from Bloomberg and The Financial Times, citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter.

[NOTE: Palantir’s data mining functions on the backbone of Amazon Web Services (AWS).]

Officials are reportedly in talks about using the company’s Foundry software to manage sensitive contact-tracing data on the spread of the virus. It comes after the government failed to report 15,841 positive cases because an Excel spreadsheet containing contact-tracing data reached its maximum size and failed to automatically update.

<snip>

Palantir has been described as the company that “knows everything about you” and its software is used by government surveillance agencies around the world for spying purposes.

From the Bloomberg Business news piece linked to above:

Founded in 2004 by Peter Thiel and some fellow PayPal alumni, Palantir cut its teeth working for the Pentagon and the CIA in Afghanistan and Iraq. The company’s engineers and products don’t do any spying themselves; they’re more like a spy’s brain, collecting and analyzing information that’s fed in from the hands, eyes, nose, and ears. The software combs through disparate data sources—financial documents, airline reservations, cellphone records, social media postings—and searches for connections that human analysts might miss. It then presents the linkages in colorful, easy-to-interpret graphics that look like spider webs. U.S. spies and special forces loved it immediately; they deployed Palantir to synthesize and sort the blizzard of battlefield intelligence.

From LA Magazine on Peter Thiel’s relationship with Donald Trump:

In 2016, billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel became the first openly gay person to speak at a Republican convention in nearly a generation. Thiel was an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump from the get-go, ultimately donating around $1.25 million to help him become president. But, [t]hese days, Thiel reportedly describes the Trump campaign as the “S.S. Minnow,” a reference to the shipwrecked boat from Gilligan’s Island, and insiders say he has “ghosted” the campaign’s overtures.

Categories
Amazon/Whole Foods Monopoly Power Surveillance Capitalism

Palantir, riding Amazon Web Services, Knows Too Much

From the New York Times:

The U.S. Army uses Palantir’s technologies for logistics. The investment bank Credit Suisse uses it to guard against money laundering. The pharmaceutical company Merck, in Germany, uses it to expedite the development of new drugs. Ferrari Scuderia uses it to try to make its Formula 1 cars faster. In the United States, the Department of Health and Human Services is using Palantir’s software to analyze virus-related data. In the NY Times magazine cover story, Michael Steinberger reports on Palantir, the secretive tech company that’s seen by some as:

a particularly malignant avatar of the Big Data revolution.

Unmentioned by the NY Times in their teaser above, Palantir has contracts with many US police departments to provide “big data” for so-called “predictive policing,” (referred to by some as PREDATORY policing) which is the draping of a scientific veneer of “objectivity” on racial profiling and the criminalization og Black, Indigenous and other People of Color communties

Categories
Surveillance Capitalism

Amazon Introduces “Pay With Palm”

Chips? We don’t need no stinking chips? We’ll use biometrics!”

World Economic Forum
@wef
Amazon introduces Amazon One, a way to pay with your palm when entering stores bit.ly/30T6l6I #Technology #Innovation
Categories
Amazon/Whole Foods Monopoly Power Boycott Amazon Campaign Labor actions

Vigil at Bezos Mansion on Prime Day, Oct 13

A few hours of support for essential workers = Many days of services so we can shelter at home

 UPDATE: About 50 people attended for a candle-light vigil. Bezos’ s mansion has the highest hedge I have ever seen, about four stories high.

PRIME DAY! OCTOBER 13, 2020   6pm to 8pm

CANDLELIGHT VIGIL AT THE BEZOS MANSION

1801 Angelo Drive, Beverly Hills, 90210

• Support the workers’ demand for safe PPE and a rank and file safety committee.

Amazon workers will be participating with facial covering to avoid retaliation.

“Even if Jeff Bezos gave $170,000 to every employee in Amazon he would still have the same wealth as before the pandemic. This is the extent to which he has profited from this historically tragic moment.

“Amazon workers are essential! Our lifeline to the basic things we need, yet they continue to put their health, and the health of loved ones they go home to every night at risk. We must stand in solidarity with them.”

AMAZON’S COVID NUMBERS

19,816 have tested positive for Covid-19. (does not include any 3rd party deliverers or contractors)

Source: Amazon/Rueters

 Hawthorne Distribution Center, 2815 W. El Segundo = 42 cases. Includes first confirm death due to Covid-19.

 Eastvale Fulfillment Center, 4950 Goodman Road, Eastvale (San Bernardino County), CA= 55 cases.

Source: directly from workers inside.

 Amazon under investigation from CA Attorney General for unsafe practices during pandemic

https://www.latimes.com/business/technology/story/2020-07-27/amazons-warehouse-safety-spurs-investigation-by-california-attorney-general

  1. “Andy”-Amazon worker from Hawthorne distribution center. – “Please join us at our CEO’s mansion to demand PPE’s, a rank and file safety committee, paid sick days off.”

  1. Chris Smalls- fired Amazon worker. “Amazon smears Smalls with racist anti-union campaign”-The Real News.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTQiTliRxig

  1. Non-union Somali Amazon workers on one day strike in Minnesota.

  1. Adam Diaz, Director, Warehouse Workers Resource Center, PANA member

Amazon workers’ demographics for the US (50 states)

Total workers (July 2020) Approx. 1 million in USA. Amazon Net income – $225 billion, 2019.

65% – Non-White, 34.7% White

26.5% Black

18.5% Hispanic

15.4% Asian –  154,000 API workers with a majority of them in California & Hawai’i.

3.6%  2 or more races

1.3% Native indigenous

53% male, 47% female

The Big Picture: How does Bezos make so much? While Amazon and all workers and community in the US must unite, it is our job in the US to educate and build solidarity with Amazon workers in the global south upon whose exploitation the Amazon empire and US Imperialism depends.  Broad public exposure of inhumane conditions and pay makes it difficult for Amazon to “divide” US workers and consumers with “better” benefits (relative to the global south) and American racism about “immigrant” and or “foreign workers” threatening American jobs.

   

1.Philippines: Amazon-Product Research worker- $1.31 per hour Investigations are ongoing for allegations of “inhumane” treatment of workers forced to lock-down inside work facilities and sleep on floors due to the pandemic.

2. Hengyang, China: Amazon contractor Foxxconn assembler – $2.14 per hour

3. San Bernardino, CA: Fullfillment Center – $15.00 per hour entry level

4. Seattle, WA: Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO – $13 million per hour

 Since the Covid-19 pandemic began PANA has supported the non-union Amazon workers through the Warehouse Workers Resource Center and we have supported nurses who have been fighting for adequate PPE and safe patient care procedures through the CA Nurses Association, AFL-CIO, at Kaiser Sunset and at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica.

• Healthcare workers, in particular nurses, have some of the highest death rates battling the pandemic as “essential” workers, like the Amazon workers. Both have been very visible in LA and the nation in their fights.

• Healthcare workers have one of the highest concentrations of API workers. In CA, about a quarter of all RNs are API, the majority Filipino/a.

• Amazon workers nationwide include about 154,000 Asian/Pacific Islander workers, with a significant number in CA, all non-union.

 PANA: Peace, Justice & Equality for the 99%

Categories
Amazon/Whole Foods Monopoly Power Labor actions

19,000+ Amazon Workers Contracted COVID-19

One former reality-TV host gets COVID and it’s world-wide news. But the 19,000 “essential workers” for Amazon who have caught it so far are only covered in “Business Insider,” as PayDay Report takes note:

 

Over 19,000 Amazon Workers Test Positive for COVID-19

 
With people choosing online over in-store shopping, Amazon’s business has boomed. However, it comes at a high cost for its workers. 

On Thursday Amazon announced that since March, 19,816 of its workers have contracted COVID-19. Amazon claims the rate is lower than the general population’s, but workplace safety advocates warn that the company has had a history of hiding injuries. 

More from Business Insider:

Frontline employees working for both Amazon and Whole Foods have repeatedly gone on strikefiled whistleblower complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and individual states’ workplace safety agencies, sued the company, and reached out to media organizations to draw attention to what they say are unsafe working conditions during the pandemic.

Amazon also has a long history of workers raising the alarm about workplace safety which resurfaced this week with a report from Reveal detailing how the company downplayed injury rates. The company has also aggressively cracked down on whistleblowers, firing multiple employees during the pandemic who spoke out about issues, monitoring their private social media conversations, and using technology to track workers seeking to organize for better conditions and pay.

Categories
Amazon/Whole Foods Monopoly Power

Can Amazon Conquer the World? NY Times “On Tech”

Excerpt with link to pieces in the NY Times. You can subscribe to their “On Tech” newsletter by email without being a NY Times subscriber, as I understand it:

 

Technology

September 28, 2020

Can Amazon conquer the world?

Gianluca Alla
Author Headshot By Shira Ovide
Amazon is the opposite of our romantic imagination of Italian villages lined with bakeries and old cobbler shops. But the pandemic persuaded Italians to overcome their reluctance to online shopping — and Amazon.
Adam Satariano, who writes about European technology for The New York Times, talked to me about his article on why Amazon’s playbook started to work in Italy, and if the country is a template for other parts of the world where Amazon hasn’t caught on.
There are underlying questions in Adam’s article: Will Amazon become something the world doesn’t really have: a dominant, globally popular store? And what might we gain and lose from that?
Shira: Why wasn’t Amazon that popular in Italy before now?
Adam: Online shopping has never been as common there as it is in the United States or elsewhere in Europe. Italy has the oldest population in Europe, and people tend to prefer shopping in stores and paying in cash. Roads in many parts of the country, especially in the less affluent south, are pretty bad.
The pandemic changed habits. One survey found that two million Italians tried e-commerce for the first time from January to May. Amazon was ready for this moment. So was Esselunga, an Italian grocery company that has done well with food delivery.
How did Amazon get ready?
The company was patient. Since it started in Italy in 2010, it slowly built warehouses and a distribution network, and convinced merchants to sell their products online. For local appeal, Amazon sponsors events like a Christmas festival in remote villages to show that the company can reach everywhere. Amazon also let Italians earmark a percentage of their purchases for local schools.
How do Italians feel about Amazon?
There’s tension between tradition and change. There’s concern about what a shift to online shopping means for the economy and culture in a country where small and midsize businesses are a large part of the economy. In Italy, as elsewhere in Europe, there are strikes and organized efforts to get better pay, benefits and working conditions.
Categories
Amazon/Whole Foods Monopoly Power

Amazon Bribery Scheme to Game Customer Reviews

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-09-24/amazon-amzn-bribery-scheme-could-be-tip-of-the-iceberg

It’s described as potentially “a $100 million dollar swindle.”

NY Times tech columnist writes:

  • A wild crime story about our software-driven lives: Prosecutors have charged former Amazon employees and e-commerce consultants with bribing Amazon workers for years to erase bad reviews, get competitors booted off the site for bogus reasons and other manipulations, Bloomberg News reported. The tactics show that what people buy on Amazon is influenced by computerized assessments of things like reviews and the reputation of the seller — and that those factors can be gamed.