Employee warns Amazon’s unchecked power includes ‘authoritarian surveillance’ tech

by WorldTribune Staff, October 19, 2018

An anonymous Amazon employee has called out the company for selling facial-recognition technology to the federal government and local police departments.

In an essay posted on Medium.com, the employee said Amazon’s “Rekognition” software is being created to automatically sort through live video feeds and identify wanted criminals. This has civil libertarians in an uproar.

“Companies like ours should not be in the business of facilitating authoritarian surveillance. Not now, not ever,” the employee wrote in the essay, adding that 450 Amazon employees have signed on to a June letter addressed to founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, calling on the company to cease work on all such projects.

LibertyNation columnist Joe Schaeffer noted on Oct. 20 that the Amazon protesters weakened their message “by dragging identity politics and pro-illegal immigration sentiments into the fray.”

“We refuse to build the platform that powers ICE,” the letter from the employees to Bezos asserts.

Schaeffer noted that “This politicization of the message falls flat at a time when President Trump has been swept into office on the strength of a clear-cut anti-illegal immigration mandate. Biometric technology is already proving effective in securing our borders. At U.S. airports or at police departments near the Mexican border, the use of biometrics has helped identify aliens attempting to enter our country with false identities. The American people want more of this, not less.”

The Orlando Police Department has signed up with Amazon to test the Rekognition software utilizing eight video cameras posted around the city. There are 180 public security cameras available to police but only eight are being used for the pilot program.

“One can argue that citizens suspected of no crime whatsoever are being run through the equivalent of a police checkpoint just by going about their everyday lives,” Schaeffer wrote.

The Orlando Weekly reports that police intend to use the software to upload mugshots of wanted criminals, and then scan live camera feeds for a match. “If the technology works, [we] intend to use it for those worst-case scenarios, for the most violent people out there – your sexual predators, people who have committed heinous crimes, murder, and that sort of thing, and as well to locate missing persons and missing juveniles,” Orlando Police Chief John Mina told the weekly newspaper in August.

“Building surveillance tools for local police departments will only boost Amazon’s power in local markets all the more,” Schaeffer noted.

“Talk about your company town. If left unregulated, Amazon may assume frightening control over local communities: Courted by the mayor for tax purposes, setting the wagescale for factory workers who have no other local employment options, and running the surveillance software fed by cameras all over town for local police departments to tap into. That is an awful lot of power for one company to have.”

In a column in the New York Post, Maureen Callahan quotes cited NYU professor Scott Galloway’s criticisms of Amazon’s growth. Galloway pointed out that Bezos has already promised that the company “wants to feed, treat, entertain, educate and medicate America.”

In this way, Amazon poses a threat to the economic model that built America. Galloway warns, “The key to competitive markets is that no one entity has too much control of the marketplace.”

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