Amazon has flipped a switch that automatically enrolled millions of its users in a program that will share Internet bandwidth between neighbors – expanding the company’s ability to track devices.
Dubbed Amazon Sidewalk, the internet-sharing program links nearby devices via Bluetooth and radio frequencies so they can stay connected to the internet via other Sidewalk-enabled devices even when disconnected from home WiFi networks.
The program already existed inside Echo and Ring security cameras dating back to 2018 and remained dormant until Tuesday.
While users do have the option to turn Sidewalk off, it has drawn scrutiny from critics concerned about the amount of data that will pass through devices to and from neighbors connected to it.
There are also concerns that the program will enable Amazon to track more users outside of their individual homes.
Media criticism sometimes involves reading between the lines, assessing the layered meanings of journalistic rhetoric, or considering what’s left unsaid in a given conversation. But we shouldn’t be numb to all the times media problems hit you like a sock in the jaw.
That was the case when readers opened the Washington Post online recently to find a full page “native” ad—that’s the kind designed to look like news—from Amazon (Jacobin, 5/27/21). Whose owner Jeff Bezos owns the Post and soon MGM (Washington Post, 5/26/21), among much else.
Blended in with the Post‘s banner and “Democracy Dies in Darkness” tagline, readers got text about how Amazon supports a raise in the federal minimum wage and has been paying its workers $15 an hour since 2018. A big picture showed an African-American employee and her child talking about how Amazon‘s generosity is allowing them to move to a bigger home.
Never mind that, as many could tell you, the company was dragged kicking and screaming to that wage increase (Jacobin, 10/2/18); that they continue to fund groups that strenuously oppose a $15 minimum wage (Jacobin, 5/27/21), like the US Chamber of Commerce; that they have vigorously and vehemently opposed union organizing (New York Times, 3/16/21)—and that no wage can justify the dangerous and degrading conditions Amazon is reported to subject many of its workers to (Intercept, 3/25/21).
If you use Alexa, Echo, or any other Amazon device, you have only 10 days to opt out of an experiment that leaves your personal privacy and security hanging in the balance.
On June 8, the merchant, Web host, and entertainment behemoth will automatically enroll the devices in Amazon Sidewalk. The new wireless mesh service will share a small slice of your Internet bandwidth with nearby neighbors who don’t have connectivity and help you to their bandwidth when you don’t have a connection.
By default, Amazon devices including Alexa, Echo, Ring, security cams, outdoor lights, motion sensors, and Tile trackers will enroll in the system. And since only a tiny fraction of people take the time to change default settings, that means millions of people will be co-opted into the program whether they know anything about it or not. The Amazon webpage linked above says Sidewalk “is currently only available in the US.”
The pods are sitting on the warehouse floor (presumably so slave workers don’t have to stray too far from their stations) waiting for mentally and physically shattered drones to enter when they need to scream, cry or… look at a bonsai tree.
Inside the chilling despair pod there is also a computer that, Amazon says, allows workers to “navigate through a library of mental health and mindful practices to recharge the internal battery.”
One can only imagine what kind of monstrous cringe is contained within.
This adds to the litany of other reports of Amazon employees being treated so poorly that they are literally killing themselves.
“They treat us like disposable parts,” an anonymous writer, who worked at an Amazon fulfillment center, wrote in an article published by The Guardian last year.
The employees say they are tracked everywhere they go (which has increased with COVID measures) and punished if they dare to stop working at any time.
Drivers have reported that they have to piss in bottles because they cannot take sufficient breaks to empty their bladders. Amazon dismissed the claim, then walked back the dismissal after it was revealed to be true via internal documents that proved the company was chiding employees for “public urination” and even “public defecation.”
Amazon’s Ring doorbell camera ‘is effectively building the largest corporate-owned, civilian-installed surveillance network that the US has ever seen,’ it has been claimed.
The stark warning came from Lauren Bridges, a PhD candidate at University of Pennsylvania, who told The Guardian that one in ten police departments around the country have access to video from the civilian cameras after the company partnered with more than 1,800 local law enforcement agencies.
Bridges raises serious concerns that cops are able to request Ring videos from members of the public without a warrant, which she claims is deliberately circumnavigating the Fourth Amendment – the right not to be searched or have items seized without a legal warrant.
Last year alone, law enforcement agencies filed 22,337 individual requests for Ring videos, according to data compiled by Bridges.
A report in the California Law Review claimed that Amazon even assisted and coached law enforcement on how to circumvent legal requirements—such as the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement.
The claims are supported by ‘scripts’, obtained by Vice in 2019 from the Topeka, KS police department, which tell police how to encourage users to share camera footage with police and encourage friends to download the Neighbors app.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, nonprofit organization for ‘defending civil liberties in the digital world,’ has even formed petitions calling on Ring to end its partnerships with law enforcement agencies.
The tech giant Amazon has been recruiting social media trolls to plant disinformation on social media in a sophisticated campaign that denigrated labor advocates and promoted globalist oligarch Jeff Bezos.
The program, codenamed “Veritas” by Amazon brass, was started in 2018 but became particularly influential during a recent labor dispute in Alabama. Amazon was using disinformation from the troll campaign to crush a unionization attempt in the state.
An internal document has been leaked detailing how the scheme was plotted by company executives.
“To address speculation and false assertions in social media and online forums about the quality of the FC [Fulfillment Center] associate experience, we are creating a new social team staffed with active, tenured FC employees, who will be empowered to respond in a polite—but blunt—way to every untruth. FC Ambassadors (‘FCA’) will respond to all posts and comments from customers, influencers (including policymakers), and media questioning the FC associate experience,” the document read.
The corporate-backed Twitter army has been particularly rude toward socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who has urged for Amazon workers to organize to gain additional benefits from the world’s richest and most powerful man.
“This job has never made me feel bad personally. If you have a job that makes you feel bad, you could leave,” said one Amazon troll regarding Sanders.
“Everyone should be able to enjoy the money they’ve earned/saved. It’s theirs. They should be able to do with it as they please. That includes Jeff Bezos,” another bought-off troll stated.
Amazon, the popular online retailer, is under fire after conservative author Ryan T. Anderson announced on Sunday that his 2018 bestseller, When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment, had been scrubbed from the Amazon website.
The decision to ban the book from its platform came several months after Amazon quietly altered its content guidelines to prohibit the sale of “content that we determine is hate speech … or other material we deem inappropriate or offensive,” which includes content that “promotes the abuse or sexual exploitation of children, contains pornography, glorifies rape or pedophilia, [or] advocates terrorism.”
As recently as August 2020, Amazon’s content guidelines for books were significantly vaguer, asserting the company’s right to prohibit the sale of “certain content, such as pornography or other inappropriate content.” Amazon has yet to offer a sufficient explanation of the updated guidelines.
In the meantime, Amazon continues to permit the sale of numerous books that most casual observers might reasonably classify as “hate speech” or are otherwise incompatible with its updated content guidelines. The company also continues to sell other products that would appear to run afoul of contemporary standards of wokeness, as outlined in its prohibition on selling items (excluding books) that “promote, incite, or glorify hatred.”