Categories
Amazon/Whole Foods Monopoly Power Boycott Amazon Campaign Stand with Palestine Surveillance Capitalism

Amazon Employees Condemn Israeli Military Cloud Contract

https://www.businessinsider.com/hundreds-google-amazon-employees-condemn-israeli-military-cloud-contract-2021-10

Excerpt:

  • Hundreds of Google and Amazon employees called for their companies to cut ties with the Israeli military.
  • Employees criticized Project Nimbus, a contract the two companies signed to sell cloud services to Israel.
  • Employees said the technology would allow for further Israeli surveillance of Palestinians.

Hundreds of Google and Amazon employees signed an open letter published in The Guardian on Tuesday condemning Project Nimbus, a $1.2 billion contract signed by the two companies to sell cloud services to the Israeli military and government.

“This technology allows for further surveillance of and unlawful data collection on Palestinians, and facilitates expansion of Israel’s illegal settlements on Palestinian land,” the letter stated. “We cannot look the other way, as the products we build are used to deny Palestinians their basic rights, force Palestinians out of their homes and attack Palestinians in the Gaza Strip – actions that have prompted war crime investigations by the international criminal court.”

Yesterday, almost 800 workers at Amazon and Google joined forces to demand their employers pull out of Project Nimbus – a $1.2 billion contract to provide cloud services for the Israeli military and government – and cut all ties with the Israeli military. 

The courageous workers at every level of Amazon and Google are making it very clear that technology should be used to bring people together, not enable apartheid and violence.

Project Nimbus is designed to make the Israeli military that carries out atrocities in Gaza — and the government that carries out the daily business of apartheid — more oppressive and deadly for Palestinians.

They deserve our support. Click here to send an email to Amazon and Google execs & let them know that there’s still time to do the right thing: Cut Project Nimbus, and stop doing business with Israel’s apartheid government.

Batool Syeda lead organizer of the campaign and employee at Amazontold American Muslims for Palestine today, “We know that this contract further enables Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. We’re concerned, we’re outraged, and we will no longer be complicit as our companies continue this pattern of militarization that follows working with ICE, the US military, and policing agencies. We are urging Amazon and Google to respect human rights and dignity by dropping Project Nimbus and committing to ethical business practices.”

Let’s declare together: #NoTechForApartheid.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/oct/12/google-amazon-workers-condemn-project-nimbus-israeli-military-contract

Categories
Amazon/Whole Foods Monopoly Power Surveillance Capitalism

Amazon & Digital Redlining

https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/09/16/chris-gilliard-sees-digital-redlining-in-surveillance-tech/

Excerpt:

Gilliard began calling attention to Ring’s discriminatory potential soon after Amazon acquired it in 2018. He grew so preoccupied with the camera that he changed his Twitter name to “One Ring (Doorbell) to Surveil Them All,” a play on a line from “The Lord of the Rings.” He made himself available as an expert source to ViceUSA Today and the Associated Press, explaining how consumer surveillance tools such as Ring, along with social “neighborhood watch” apps such as Neighbors and Nextdoor, feed on people’s fears and amplify their biases.

“I think about what the effect is of law enforcement having easy access to cameras from everyone’s porch,” Gilliard said. “It makes nuisance crimes” — from stolen Amazon packages to an egged car — “available for escalation in a way that they weren’t previously.”

Gradually, Gilliard’s concerns were borne out. Stories began to emerge about Ring’s secret partnerships with police departments; its security vulnerabilities; the rampant racism on its neighborhood watch app, Neighbors; and how it trades on people’s suspicion of others who look like they “don’t belong.” (Ring says it doesn’t tolerate discrimination on the Neighbors app, and it encourages users to consider whether their suspicion is reasonable before sharing footage.)

<snip>

Gilliard is “a true leading indicator,” said Rumman Chowdhury, an expert on artificial intelligence ethics who directs Twitter’s Machine Learning Ethics, Transparency, and Accountability team. “For anybody looking to understand the next narrative in tech, whatever tomorrow’s story is going to be, it would be smart to follow Chris and to listen to what he is saying.”

***

If Gilliard appears prescient about how tools of surveillance may be abused in the future, it might be because he’s intimately familiar with how they’ve been abused in the past.

Gilliard grew up in Detroit in the 1970s and ‘80s, a time and place associated with drugs and violent crime in the popular imagination. But Gilliard, one of eight children born to a washing-machine repairman and a cook, didn’t see it that way. To him, the perceptions of urban Detroit as a dangerous dystopia were more damaging than the reality. They meant that members of his community were viewed by White society primarily as a threat — a problem to be solved, or contained.

Categories
Amazon/Whole Foods Monopoly Power Surveillance Capitalism

Amazon Profits from Endless War

Recent disclosures of the revolving door between Amazon and the national security state have underlined the degree to which the company has been profiting from the “War on Terror”.

https://techxplore.com/news/2021-09-big-tech-billions-war-terror.html

Excerpt:

Tech giants made billions through contracts with the US military and other government agencies during the so-called “war on terror”, according to a report released ahead of the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

The main report, “Big Tech Sells War”, is available here:

https://bigtechsellswar.com

Steve Pandelides, pictured above  worked at the FBI from November 1999-March 2021, including at the National Counterterrorism Center and Operational Technology Division. He’s now the Director for Security at Amazon Web Services. Christine Halvorsen, above, also worked at the FBI, from March 2013-April 2019, including as Deputy Assistant Director for the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division. She is now
Amazon Web Services Senior Technical Business Development Manager, and a Mission Acceleration Team Strategic Account Executive, for Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Jana Kay had two tours of duty at the Department of “Defense”, 2005-2007, and 2009-2018, including as a Strategist for the Global War on Terrorism; from 2007-2009, she was a Strategic Planner, at the National Counterterrorism Center. She has been with Amazon Web Services as a Cloud Security Strategist, 2018-Present.

Excerpt:

  • The 2000s saw the rise of profits and prominence of US Big Tech. While tech corporations like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, and Twitter became more and more a part of our everyday lives, these same companies were providing tools to the US military and government to help fuel their war on Muslim communities. From databases to drones, US Big Tech is complicit in and has profited from this never-ending war against Muslims at home and abroad.
  • Big Tech has also been a vehicle for the rampant spread of Islamophobia since the start of the GWoT. Facebook, Twitter, and Google’s streaming service YouTube platform virulent anti-Muslim, xenophobic hate speech, and conspiracies that have fueled events like the 2019 Christchurch attack. These platforms also allow think tanks and individuals invested in the GWoT in some way to spread disinformation to justify its continuation. At the same time these platforms have censored BIPOC creators and activists for speaking out against state violence.
  • While weapons manufacturers have rightly  gotten much attention as war profiteers, tech also has a role in war against our communities. The United States remains the largest arms exporter in the world, but now tools to fight “war” are different and focused on what the tech and military industries refer to as the “digital battlefield” where metadata, drones, and artificial intelligence (AI) do the killing in the name of efficiency. Add the reality that surveillance has become an essential part of the GWoT and there is now an entire terro industry for Big Tech to profit from.
  • Big Tech is benefitting from what some have called “terror capitalism,” the phenomenon of corporations profiting off of defining entire communities as “terrorists” and using these communities as test subjects for technology developed in service of counterterrorism, which can eventually also be deployed for other purposes. For the GWoT, it is Muslim communities across the globe who have been dehumanized as “terrorists” and have become test subjects for a wide range of technology from drones to databases.
Categories
Amazon/Whole Foods Monopoly Power Boycott Amazon Campaign ICE Surveillance Capitalism

Amazon Partial Owner of Deportation Airline

https://investigate.afsc.org/company/atsg

AIR TRANSPORT SERVICES GROUP INC

STOCK SYMBOLS
NASDAQ

:

ATSG
COMPANY HEADQUARTERS
USA
ISSUES

A US air cargo and transportation company, which operates charter deportation flights for the US government

Air Transport Services Group Inc (ATSG) is a charter cargo and passenger airline operating primarily in the U.S. and Canada. It is the largest provider of charter flights to the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), which in 2020 accounted for 31% of its revenue. The company’s other major clients include Amazon, which is a partial owner (see below), shipping companies DHL and UPS, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), for which ATSG provides deportation flights (see below). Other than charter flights, the company also provides air transportation services such as aircraft leasing, aircraft maintenance and modification services, logistics, and training. ATSG owns three charter airlines with a combined fleet of 106 Boeing aircraft and reported a 2020 revenue of $1.5 billion.

ATSG is partially owned by Amazon, which acquired a 19.5% stake in ATSG in 2020, and has the option to increase its share to 40%. ATSG reports having a “long-standing, strategic customer relationship” with Amazon, which accounted for 30% of ATSG’s 2020 revenue. ATSG’s cargo airline Air Transport International is one of two airlines that comprise the bulk of Amazon’s air fleet (“Amazon Air”), since Amazon established it in 2016. ATSG reports as an advantage the fact that it is headquartered at the Wilmington Air Park in Ohio, which Amazon also uses as a regional hub. Another ATSG subsidiary, Cargo Aircraft Management, has contracted the Israeli military company Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to convert Boeing 767 aircraft from a passenger to cargo configuration for Amazon’s fleet. As of 2019, 80% of Amazon’s cargo planes were reportedly converted by IAI.

Omni Air International, ATSG’s passenger charter airline, is the sole provider of “special high-risk charter” deportation flights for ICE. These are flights that involve deporting people who “fail to comply” with ICE’s orders or other “high-profile” deportations, and are different from most ICE deportations, which are handled either by routine charter flights to Central America or by booking seats on commercial flights. As specified in government contracting documents, Omni Air effectively has a monopoly on “high-risk” deportation flights, as no other company can provide these services on ICE’s schedule. The planes used for such deportations are Boeing 767s and 777s.

ICE does not contract Omni Air directly for deportation flights, but through an intermediary broker company called Classic Air Charter, which arranges most ICE air deportations. This contract, which started in 2017, is worth a potential $737.9 million and can be extended through 2023. It is unknown how much of this amount ends up in the hands of Omni Air, however the company charged ICE $33,500 per flight hour and a total of almost $1.8 million for one deportation flight to Bangladesh, India, and Vietnam in 2019.

On many of the “high-risk” deportations that Omni Air operates, ICE puts people into a device called the WRAP, a full body, straitjacket-like restraint. Anecdotal accounts indicate that this process often involves pinning individuals to the ground face-down on the ground before the flight, beating them up while they are in the restraint, and using TASERs to subdue them. The WRAP device is manufactured by Safe Restraints, a privately-owned company based in Diablo, CA. It is also used by hundreds of law enforcement agencies and prisons across the U.S. and has been implicated in multiple fatalities.

Categories
Amazon/Whole Foods Monopoly Power Boycott Amazon Campaign Stand with Palestine Surveillance Capitalism

Amazon Deepens “Security” Involvement in Israel

Amazon’s Investments in Israel Reveal Complicity in Settlements and Military Operations | The Nation

Excerpt:

On Prime Day, Amazon’s largest online shopping event, the company will be looking to beat its previous sales record of $10.4 billion. Increasingly, customers have grown critical of Amazon’s treatment of workersunion-busting activities, and partnerships with police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, leading some to call for a boycott of Prime Day. What Amazon Prime members may not realize, however, is that Amazon is also aiding in the spread of military occupation abroad.

Amid Israel’s most recent deadly attacks on the Gaza Strip and ongoing displacement of Palestinian residents in Sheikh Jarrah, Amazon Web Services (AWS), together with Google, recently signed a $1.2 billion contract with the Israeli government. The deal, “Project Nimbus,” is a flagship project to provide a cloud services “ecosystem” for the Israeli public sector, for which the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) will be the primary beneficiary. Construction has already begun on three data server centers.

<snip>

Amazon’s cloud service will also assist in Israel’s expanding settlement enterprise by supporting data for the Israel Land Authority (ILA), the government agency that manages and allocates state land. As Human Rights Watch has argued, the ILA administers discriminatory land policies that “nurture the growth and expansion” of predominantly Jewish settlements, while hemming Palestinians into dense population centers in “starkly unequal terms.”

According to Israel National News, this has generated dissent and protest from Amazon workers:

Google, Amazon, and Israel in the new America – Israel National News

Shortly after the Google employees published their letter, some five hundred Amazon employees entered the anti-Israel fray. They signed a letter that was almost identical to the Google employees’ letter. They called for Amazon to reject the definition of anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism. They insisted that Israel is a racist colonial project and that the land of Israel belongs to the Palestinian Arabs. They called for Amazon to financially support Palestinian organizations. And they asked that the firm “commit to review and sever business contracts and corporate donations with companies, organizations, and/or governments that are active or complicit in human rights violations, such as the Israeli Defense Forces.”

Another employee group, called “Amazon Employees for Climate Justice,” tweeted a long chain of posts denouncing the company’s participation in the Nimbus Project. Among other things, they wrote, “We stand in solidarity with Palestinians who went on a historic general strike to protest Israel’s deadly assault on Gaza. Amazon and Google recently signed a $1B deal supporting Israel’s military. Amazon is complicit in state killings and human rights abuses.

“Amazon’s workers didn’t sign up to work on projects that support militaries and policing forces. We didn’t sign up to be complicit in state killings and human rights abuses in the US, Israel, and around the world,” they conc

Categories
Amazon/Whole Foods Monopoly Power Surveillance Capitalism

Amazon’s Ring & Echo Share Your Wireless with Neighbors

Amazon Sidewalk shares your Internet with smart homes — and surveillance devices – The Washington Post

Excerpts:

There’s an eyebrow-raising technology buried inside millions of Amazon Echo smart speakers and Ring security cameras. They have the ability to make a new kind of wireless network called Sidewalk that shares a slice of your home Internet connection with your neighbors’ devices.

At the start of June, Amazon switched Sidewalk on — for everyone.

I’m digging into my settings to turn it off. Sidewalk, which is built into Amazon devices dating back to 2018, raises more red flags than a marching band parade: Is it secure enough to be activated in so many homes? Are we helping Amazon build a vast network that can be used for more surveillance? And why didn’t Amazon ask us to opt-in before activating a capability lying dormant in our devices?

I recommend you opt out of Sidewalk, too, until we get much better answers to these questions.
  • If you’ve got Echo devices, go to the Alexa app on a phone, then tap the More icon. Then tap on Settings, then tap on Account Settings, then tap on Amazon Sidewalk. In there, make sure “Enabled” is set to off.
  • If you’ve got Ring devices, go to the Ring app on a phone, then tap the three bars at the top left corner to get to the menu. Then tap Control Center, then scroll down to Amazon Sidewalk.

Modern iPhones collect and beam out tiny snippets of other people’s data for Apple’s Find My network, used to report the location of lost devices and AirTag trackers. The routers that Comcast puts in our homes automatically double as hotspots for other Xfinity customers, though they create a separate WiFi network for the public traffic.

With Sidewalk, Amazon is creating a more robust network. Your lowly Echo speaker (or other compatible device) is already connected to your home’s private Internet connection. When Amazon transforms it into a so-called Sidewalk Bridge, your device creates a new network of its own that’s not WiFi. Instead, it uses common Bluetooth to connect devices nearby, and another type of signal (using the 900 MHz spectrum) to connect to devices up to half a mile away.

This new Sidewalk network can’t carry as much data as WiFi, but it’s still impressive: Sidewalk signals from all the Amazon devices in your neighborhood overlap and join together to create what’s called a mesh network.

Categories
Amazon/Whole Foods Monopoly Power Boycott Amazon Campaign Labor actions Surveillance Capitalism

Protesters Challenge Amazon Shareholders to Clean Up the Company’s Act

May 24, 2021 protest of Amazon's human rights, labor and environment violations
May 24, 2021 labor unionists, faith-based groups and civil libertarians protest Amazon’s human rights, labor and environment violations.

Here’s a report from the Athena coalition:

Athena.

On Wednesday, Amazon will hold its annual meeting with investors. There, they will continue to celebrate $21.3 billion in pandemic profiteering, dangerous exploitation of workers, and preying on Black, brown and immigrant communities with ICE deportations, police, pollution, and destruction of small business and climate.

Activist shareholders will introduce resolutions to begin to address Amazon’s business model, and your neighbors are assembling at the doors of its biggest shareholders to say we have #EyesOnAmazon shareholders, and expect them to vote with our communities, not Amazon’s destructive agenda.

Eyes On Amazon
This year, more than any other, Amazon’s role in our democracy and economy is on the agenda at its shareholder meeting. The pandemic and murder of George Floyd forced a reckoning over racism in America. Organizers and activists fought back against Amazon’s expanding partnerships with violent police departments; protested the firing of Black whistleblowers who worked at Amazon warehouses; and fought Amazon’s environmental damage in Black and brown neighborhoods, disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

This year we expand our fight, showing up beyond warehouses, beyond Jeff Bezos’ 25-bathroom mansion and beyond ICE headquarters in front of the doors of Amazon’s billionaire shareholders in our cities.

See you on the streets!

And here’s the full document to the shareholders spelling out Amazon’s egregious violations of labor, environmental and human rights:

Amazon 2021-Proxy-Statement

Categories
Labor actions Surveillance Capitalism

Amazon Automates Firings; 21st Century Sweatshop

Apparently, Amazon is firing people in such massive numbers for failing to meet “productivity” goals, that it has turned the process over to A-I tracking and robots to carry out the dismissals.

How Amazon automatically tracks and fires warehouse workers for ‘productivity’ – The Verge

Excerpt:

Documents obtained by The Verge show those productivity firings are far more common than outsiders realize. In a signed letter last year, an attorney representing Amazon said the company fired “hundreds” of employees at a single facility between August of 2017 and September 2018 for failing to meet productivity quotas. A spokesperson for the company said that, over that time, roughly 300 full-time associates were terminated for inefficiency.

The number represents a substantial portion of the facility’s workers: a spokesperson said the named fulfillment center in Baltimore includes about 2,500 full-time employees today. Assuming a steady rate, that would mean Amazon was firing more than 10 percent of its staff annually, solely for productivity reasons. The numbers are even more staggering in North America as a whole. Amazon operates more than 75 fulfillment centers with more than 125,000 full-time employees, suggesting thousands lose their jobs with the company annually for failing to move packages quickly enough.

The documents also show a deeply automated tracking and termination process. “Amazon’s system tracks the rates of each individual associate’s productivity,” according to the letter, “and automatically generates any warnings or terminations regarding quality or productivity without input from supervisors.” (Amazon says supervisors are able to override the process.)

Critics see the system as a machine that only sees numbers, not people. “One of the things that we hear consistently from workers is that they are treated like robots in effect because they’re monitored and supervised by these automated systems,” Mitchell says. “They’re monitored and supervised by robots.”

Categories
Surveillance Capitalism

Amazon Effort to Re-invent Health Care Fails

Sometimes even big, powerful monopolies are incapable of overcoming the contradictions of their own system. According to a report in the NY Times, Amazon’s effort to re-invent employer based health care coverage, which briefly knocked down insurance industry share values, has died. Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway (Warren Buffett’s conglomerate) and JP MorganChase bank had announced a join venture in 2018 called Haven. [Buffett, Bezos and Chase’s Jamie Dimon are pictured above in an AP photo.] It was designed to start with their own employees, and work out from there to tecniques and a “product” that could streamline health coverage. But it died a quiet death in January.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/04/business/haven-amazon-berkshire-hathaway-jpmorgan.html

Excerpt:

A joint venture formed by Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase to explore new ways to deliver health care to their employees is disbanding, according to a short statement on its website. The company, Haven, will cease operations at the end of February — three years after its arrival sent shock waves through the health care industry.

“Haven explored a wide range of health care solutions, as well as piloted new ways to make primary care easier to access, insurance benefits simpler to understand and easier to use, and prescription drugs more affordable,” the statement said. …

But two people familiar with the collaboration said logistical hurdles had made it harder than expected to come up with new ideas that made sense for all three companies.

Berkshire Hathaway, one of the people said, had a wide variety of systems for administering health care at the companies it owns, so across-the-board changes were difficult even internally. And JPMorgan funds its own health care plan for its employees, which posed a challenge to applying ideas that could work for Amazon and Berkshire Hathaway.

A NY Times tech newsletter takes matters further:

Let me go back to one of Amazon’s high-profile projects in groceries. To sum up the company’s last 15 years: Amazon operated a grocery-delivery service for a decade without much success. Then nearly four years ago it bought the Whole Foods chain of 500 grocery stores for more than $13 billion. That hasn’t been a smash. Now Amazon is building a different chain from scratch with stores that Bloomberg News described as somewhere between a Trader Joe’s and larger supermarkets.
There have been news reports that Amazon has dreams of heavily automated stores and plans to eliminate cash registers in lots of places. Maybe Amazon wants to use its grocery outposts as prep centers for deliveries of fresh fish and dish soap.
This is where I add that it’s possible I will look like an idiot for writing this. Groceries, robots for the home, pharmaceutical drugs and health insurance are all areas worthy of innovation. It’s just helpful to think of Amazon’s efforts as experiments — sometimes bad ones — rather than fully baked marvels of creation.
Categories
Amazon/Whole Foods Monopoly Power Labor actions Surveillance Capitalism

Amazon Installs A-I Surveillance in Delivery Vans

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/02/03/amazon-using-ai-equipped-cameras-in-delivery-vans.html

Excerpts:

Amazon drivers at some U.S. facilities will soon have an extra set of eyes watching them when they hit the road to make their daily deliveries.

The company recently began testing AI-equipped cameras in vehicles to monitor contracted delivery drivers while they’re on the job, with the aim of improving safety.

Amazon has deployed the cameras in Amazon-branded cargo vans used by a handful of companies that are part of its delivery service partner program, which are largely responsible for last-mile deliveries. The cameras could be rolled out to additional DSPs over time, and Amazon has already distributed an instructional video to DSPs, informing them of how the cameras work.

Deborah Bass, an Amazon spokesperson, confirmed to CNBC that the company has begun using the AI-equipped cameras across its delivery fleet. Some details of Amazon’s plans were previously reported by The Information.