Amazon, You Keep Invading My Privacy: Why Can't I Quit You?

The corporate giants reach is getting larger and more invasive than ever.

Photo by Jan Antonin Kolar on Unsplash

You’re Being Watched

Amazon is watching. Yes, the retail, internet, data mining, e-commerce giant has spent years trying to convince you otherwise although they are wiring homes, neighborhoods, offices, entire cities with cameras, microphones, speakers, and other means to invade your privacy. Not to mention they power the nation’s intelligence services. All under the guise of being able to offer you any and everything you need at the literal touch of a button. Or the sound of your voice. According to a new survey conducted by researchers at Georgetown University, Amazon is the second most trusted institution in the U.S. only behind the military. The purpose of the survey was to dispel the notion that American’s have lost confidence in many of our institutions, more particular the democratic political system. 5,400 respondents were asked to indicate their level of confidence in 20 US institutions. Surprisingly (at least to me) the top five were the military, Amazon, Google, local police, and colleges and universities. The bottom five were the executive branch, Facebook, political parties, and Congress, (point proven I suppose).

I find it hard to reconcile that Amazon and trust are expressed in the same sentiment. The only thing I can trust about Amazon is that they will promptly and readily deliver affordable products to my doorstep, albeit products from their own company that they have dropped prices on dramatically in an attempt to undercut the small business owner on their site selling a similar product, because, well they can. And how? The free R&D the small business provides by trying to use the world’s biggest retail platform to make a living. I trust that level of predatory practice.

It Just Keeps Getting Better

But the good ole folks at Georgetown aren’t the only ones who were able to deduce American’s so blindly trust the retail, technology, publishing, movie studio (pick a label), giant. The Verge also conducted a similar survey, partnering with Reticle Research to survey Americans on their feelings about the world’s largest tech companies, Amazon being one of them. The findings suggested that American’s have no problem with trusting Amazon. Citing that: Americans trust Amazon with their personal information “almost as much as they trust their own bank,” and that respondents were more likely to recommend Amazon’s services to their friends and family than they were any other tech company.

Perhaps it is this level of trust that provided Amazon with the confidence and wherewithal to move forward with plans to install always-on surveillance cameras in its delivery vehicles, the company confirmed today, Thursday, February 4, 2020.

“We are investing in safety across our operations and recently started rolling out industry-leading camera-based safetytechnology across our delivery fleet,” the e-commerce colossus said in response to an inquiry by the press. “This technology will provide drivers real-time alerts to help them stay safe when they are on the road.”This will undoubtedly be the largest expansion of corporate surveillance EVER.


Let’s Get Real Here

We know Amazon’s stance on the camera-based technology, let’s be real about what it actually is. The hardware and software will be provided by Netradyne, a company based in California that has developed cameras and artificial intelligence to analyze a driver as they operate a vehicle. The camera in turn will provide real-time feedback while collecting information that is used to evaluate drivers during their shifts. REAL time, insinuating that these cameras will be recording Amazon drivers 100% of the time. While the system doesn’t allow drivers to be monitored in real-time, the footage will be uploaded to a dedicated “safety team” for 16 different actions. Actions such as hard braking, seatbelt violations, or not stopping. On the flip side, the driver can also push a button to start recording footage to protect themselves, such as in instances of road rage or if they were unable to deliver a package through no fault of their own.

In a video leaked on Twitter, and narrated by Amazon senior manager for last-mile safety Karolina Haraldsdottir, the company proposes that they ONLY want to reduce risky driver behavior and reduce collisions. Perhaps this is the justification for the four HD cameras that will be constantly recording footage all around the driver and the delivery vehicle. Stills from the video, show this is inside and outside of the vehicle.

Screenshot by Nick Statt / The Verge

You have No Privacy, Whatsoever.

So, just to be clear here. Amazon web services, it’s biggest source of revenue host many of the sites, companies, organizations, and entities you interact with daily. The bank I work for uses AWS. They are everywhere. They also have quite successfully, I might add, planted one of their devices in millions and millions of homes worldwide. (Upon last count I have seven Alexa enabled speakers in my home). Devices that are listening, even when you’re not speaking directly to them (you do have the ability to delete recordings, but who does that?). And who track your spending habits, your needs and wants, and when you pull out that phone, laptop, tablet, to purchase something, chances are the server or host that you’re being funneled through uses Amazon services.

Not to mention, through their recent acquisition of Ring, they have fully and completely infiltrated the lives of Americans. The controversies surrounding this partnership are too numerous to state, but a man using the ring camera of a family in Mississippi to harass an 8-year-old girl is one of the creepiest that comes to mind. They have already used the ring doorbell to create a video surveillance network, with this recent initiative, this company will have created a surveillance system that the supervillains in the Legion of Doom could only dream of (I’m a huge Marvel and DC fan).

As the influence of Amazon has exploded and become this all-knowing, ubiquitous presence that quite frankly has become a little frightening. They have also faced accusations of mistreating its workers (I still can’t forget the whole pee in a bottle thing), not paying enough taxes, not paying enough to employees, poaching its own sellers for intel on which products to bring to market to its customers, and relying on monopolistic e-commerce practices. I believe all of these things. I detest these things. I am vehemently against any of these practices, and fully believe that continuing to support a company that employs them is against everything I stand for. So why through three price increases, do I still have Amazon Prime? My “smart house” is powered by Alexa. I love ‘The Boys”, an Amazon original (it really is an awesome show, you should check it out), and have no plans on quitting the company anytime soon.


Yes, I’m Ashamed. Very. But What Will That Change?

I can’t quit Amazon. I just can’t. It’s too convenient, especially over the last year, and being in lockdown. Where else will I be able to have my groceries, pampers for my daughter, batteries for my son’s mobile, and wallpaper for the pantry project I decided to start, delivered to my doorstep in less than two days? How can I turn on my lights without my echo dot? Using the LIGHT SWITCH?! Please. Amazon is like Krispy Kreme Donuts for me. I don’t need it. They are bad for me. The pricing is outrageous for what you get, and I feel guilty every time I go there. But those donuts are JUST. SO. GOOD. And if you have the luxury of living in a state (such as I do) where there are retail locations, when the red light is on, and I’m in the vicinity, I can’t resist. If you need a mental picture? Think Homer Simpson. I’m the female version of him when it comes to Krispy Kreme.

So what does that say about me, knowing how horrible this company is, but I still choose to use their services? I get an Amazon package about three or four times a week. I can’t remember the last time I actually physically locked my door. Or flipped a light switch. Likening the company to a guilty pleasure feels too easy. Pretty soon, with the implementation of this new camera system, Amazon will be able to see inside your homes, your doorsteps, and your neighborhoods. Every time you see an Amazon delivery truck drive by, they will be watching you. Seriously. The added pressure on its drivers is unimaginable.

Driving for some of us is a sacred, private place. I know how I’d feel if a camera was recording me singing and voguing as I’m driving, or picking my nose (we all do it). Especially being a mom, driving is a place of solitude for me. For the Amazon driver, this will be their reality: as long as they wear an Amazon uniform, they will have no more privacy. Even in places where there is a reasonable expectation of it. There is one side of me that wants to give into my moral indignation and stage a one-woman boycott of Amazon and its services. But the realist in me knows that one person can’t impact change when going against a massive behemoth such as Amazon. And that’s unsettling. I’m not ok with it, but like the average consumer, I’m not going to do anything about it. And Amazon, will just keep winning.

Thanks for listening