By Aaron Kesel
Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos, whom this writer has previously referred to as emperor Palpatine from Star Wars, wants to write his own laws on facial recognition technology amid a release of a slew of new products that will each cause various privacy concerns.
Earlier this year, Amazon published its draft guidelines that it feels that U.S. lawmakers should adopt for facial recognition technology.
In those guidelines Amazon Vice President of Global Public Policy Michael Punke stated:
- Facial recognition should always be used in accordance with the law, including laws that protect civil rights.
- When facial recognition technology is used in law enforcement, human review is a necessary component to ensure that the use of a prediction to make a decision does not violate civil rights.
- When facial recognition technology is used by law enforcement for identification, or in a way that could threaten civil liberties, a 99% confidence score threshold is recommended.
- Law enforcement agencies should be transparent in how they use facial recognition technology.
- There should be notice when video surveillance and facial recognition technology are used together in public or commercial settings.
Clearly they aren’t getting it that it’s the technology itself that needs to be thrown into a black hole or the sun, your choice.
Bezos hopes that lawmakers will adopt much of this draft legislation given that his company has recently invested in buying Ring. Amazon has since turned Ring into a domestic surveillance web, being used by police to monitor neighborhoods. Amazon’s partnership with police has raised eyebrows all over from Congress to activists and privacy rights organizations like the EFF, and ACLU.
The comments come after Bezos told reporters following Amazon’s annual Alexa gadget event in Seattle on Wednesday, Vox reported.
“Our public policy team is actually working on facial recognition regulations; it makes a lot of sense to regulate that,” Bezos said in response to a reporter’s question.
“It’s a perfect example of something that has really positive uses, so you don’t want to put the brakes on it,” Bezos added. “But, at the same time, there’s also potential for abuses of that kind of technology, so you do want regulations. It’s a classic dual-use kind of technology.”
Activist Post Recommended Book: The Age of Surveillance Capitalism
Bezos didn’t expand on what he thinks that those “positive uses” are. But emperor Palpatine has previously said he wants to build a city on the moon, complete with robots to deliver Amazon products to moon colonists who decide to live on Bezo-topia. He has also fully rolled out Ring, a neighborhood surveillance network that works with police and encourages citizens to be wary of their neighbors.
So, to say the least, Bezos has an interesting view of our future that conflicts with what the rest of us want. But lawmakers seem to have halted his dream to run a police state and our subsequent nightmare. Earlier this year, legislators called for putting a “time out” on facial recognition technology until regulations are in place. So far, Congress has held two oversight hearings on the topic and there are at least four bills in the works to limit the technology.
On top of that, some cities in the U.S. have outright banned the biometric technology like San Francisco, Somerville, Massachusetts, and Oakland, California, as Activist Post reported.
The rapid growth of this technology has triggered a much-needed debate to slow down the roll out. Activists, politicians, academics and even police forces all over the world are expressing serious concerns over the impact facial recognition could have on our society.
This may be why Amazon has decided to attempt to draft facial recognition laws, as the company has a huge investment in the technology with Ring.
The American Civil Liberties Union responded and said it was a “welcome sign” that Amazon recognizes the dangers of facial recognition, but said the tech giant needs to quit handing its technology Ring and Facial Rekognition out to police if it truly cares about privacy.
“If Amazon is really interested in preventing these dangers, the first thing it should do is stop pushing surveillance tools into our communities without regard for the impact,” the ACLU’s senior legislative counsel, Neema Singh Guliani, said. “Lawmakers should be skeptical of weak industry proposals that sacrifice individuals rights in the interest of profit.”
Even Amazon employees who are against the company selling facial recognition technology to the government have protested the company’s decision. Over 20 groups of shareholders have sent several letters to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos urging him to stop selling the company’s face recognition software to law enforcement.
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“We are concerned the technology would be used to unfairly and disproportionately target and surveil people of color, immigrants, and civil society organizations,” the shareholders, which reportedly include Social Equity Group and Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment, wrote. “We are concerned sales may be expanded to foreign governments, including authoritarian regimes.”
Another letter was just sent in January 2019, organized by Open Mic, a nonprofit organization focused on corporate accountability, and was filed by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood; both letters warned the technology poses “potential civil and human rights risks.”
Numerous civil rights organizations have also co-signed a letter demanding Amazon stop assisting government surveillance; and several members of Congress have expressed concerns about the partnerships.
At the same Amazon event the company show cased its new gadgets that it hopes to push into consumer homes many displaying potential privacy concerns. These new devices included Echo Buds, Glasses, Echo Ring, CNET reported.and an
“Amazon has a terrible record on privacy and is releasing endless ‘smart’ gadgets that constantly surveil their owners’ private lives,” Silkie Carlo, Big Brother Watch director said in a statement to Business Insider. “Pitching these devices for people’s homes is one thing, but encouraging people to wear listening devices all day is a step further.”
The company also announced that Alexa will now be implemented into select General Motors vehicles. GM joins car makers Ford and Toyota in allowing the company to integrate Alexa into GMC, Cadillac and Chevrolet vehicles starting next year.
This is a clear push to integrate Alexa into every part of our lives especially with Alexa “portable on the go” technology. But really Amazon, a smart oven so you can listen to all our conversations in the kitchen? Pardon my French, I am no chef, but f*ck that!
There’s no better time than now to remind readers that the three big giants in tech — Apple, Amazon, Google — have all recently been found to be using their “voice assistants” to record customers during their most intimate moments while having sex.
Hilariously, the Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post even ran a headline that’s quite blunt and to the point, “Alexa has been eavesdropping on you this whole time.”
Amazon has responded to privacy concerns this week by adding a voice command that lets you reported., and said it will generously allow its users to delete Alexa voice recordings on a three-month or eight-month basis. The company is also sort of addressing the problem with recording kids by offering what it calls “kid mode.” Oh, and Alexa will soon be able to control your Wi-Fi and tell you about your child’s education, Venture Beat
On a more serious note, one has to question why Amazon is requiring users to keep voice recordings on a “three-month or eight-month basis?” Again, this is coming from the same company that just wrote a draft piece of legislation to shape our laws around facial recognition. If that’s not a glimpse of what’s to come for our hellish future, I don’t know what is. The future is Alexa everywhere you go; that’s Jeff Bezos’ ultimate wet dream.
As a reminder, those “smart voice assistants” were previously showcased how easy it is to hack them and then use them as a surveillance device. Further, Amazon has a $600 million cloud computing contract that was awarded to Amazon’s cloud computing division in 2013 with the CIA, launched a secret cloud service in 2017, and almost had a $10 billion dollar contract with the Pentagon, if the deal wasn’t halted. If that’s not enough as previously expressed Amazon has been working with police stations all over the U.S. with Ring and package entrapment operations on would-be thieves.
In other words, TLDR, Amazon can’t be trusted with our best intentions in mind and shouldn’t be writing our laws, full stop! It’s not like there are dozens of conflicts of interest at all…
If you even suspect you are on a government watch list — COG, CIA, NSA, FBI — or any other list, and you own an Amazon Alexa-powered device, don’t be surprised if the government spies on you. Especially if Amazon makes Alexa dishwashers in the future, since former CIA chief David Petraeus is on the record saying “we’ll spy on you through your dishwashers and other appliances.” An absolutely hilarious concept until it’s our reality. We now have a smart oven by Amazon; we are only one step away from being able to tell our dishwashers to wash our dishes. But little will we know those damn tin boxes will be listening back. Hell, if we are lucky maybe they will collect dishes too with a little Amazon robot named Rosie. It can be a combo deal! As long as the robot isn’t Bender because then we may have some serious major problems.
On second thought, maybe we should just ban facial recognition technology and these spy devices that are disguised as voice assistants. Fight For The Future has previously launched a first-of-its-kind interactive map that tracks where in the U.S. facial recognition technology is being used and where it is being resisted, along with a tool-kit for local activists who want to help kickstart a ban in their city or state, as Activist Post reported.
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