Nov 27, 2019

Amazon faces pressure over Ring privacy and warehouse conditions

A Ring security camera system. Photo: Glenn Chapman/AFP via Getty Images

For retailers, Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday buying season with Black Friday and Cyber Monday in quick succession — but Amazon has some difficult business to deal with before it can start celebrating.

What's new: This week, fresh reports cast further doubts on the company's handling of working conditions at its warehouses and surveillance questions related to its Ring doorbell-cameras.

Driving the news:

  • The Intercept reports that Ring was developing a "watch list" feature driven by facial recognition software as well as a mechanism for owners to be notified of potentially suspicious activity. A company spokesperson told Axios that "nothing he's described is in development or in use today."
  • Gizmodo detailed "staggering" high worker injury rates at a New York warehouse. A report in the Atlantic places the blame on "ruthless quotas" imposed by the company on its workers.
  • Meanwhile, a new report this week from the Center for Investigative Reporting suggests Indiana officials manipulated the state's investigation into an Amazon worker's death to promote the region's bid for the company's HQ2 office.

Why it matters: Amazon has grown into arguably the world's largest retailer, and in the U.S. its vast reach online and off touches a huge percentage of households. Though the company has so far escaped the kind of public outcry that Facebook has encountered, it's becoming an increasingly prominent target for investigations by both media and regulators.

Go deeper: What Amazon knows about you

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The techlash zeroes in on Amazon

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

On the big shopping days of the year — Black Friday, Cyber Monday and, of course, Prime Day — Amazon once shined with its hyper-efficient apparatus for commerce on full display.

No more. Heightened scrutiny of the consequences of its bigness is beginning to supplant the glowing coverage of its success.

Go deeperArrowDec 5, 2019

Civil rights groups push Congress to probe Amazon on privacy issues

A dozen civil rights groups are banding together in an effort to push federal lawmakers to investigate Amazon over its privacy practices.

The big picture: Amazon is already under pressure from antitrust investigations, and it's facing growing scrutiny on the privacy front amid revelations of Ring's work with police agencies as well as concerns about the company's Rekognition facial recognition software.

Go deeperArrowNov 25, 2019

Amazon details Ring's police ties

Ring security cameras. Photo: Glenn Chapman/AFP via Getty Images

In separate responses to congressional inquiries released Tuesday, Amazon disclosed the breadth of its Ring subsidiary's partnerships with local police departments, and admitted that it used sales data from third-party products to help decide which products to start selling under its own name.

Why it matters: Both disclosures will give fresh ammunition to the company's critics.

Go deeperArrowNov 20, 2019