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Amazon's ring spies on staff

by on24 October 2022

One ring to bind them

Amazon's staff management methods are now getting more autocratic as the company turns to its ring system to spy on anyone unfortunate enough to work there, according to a new Data & Society report.

Amazon’s Ring security cameras has become the de facto surveillance system for Amazon delivery drivers and gig workers and the company is using it to monitor staff beyond working hours.

Data & Society analysts Aiha Nguyen and Eve Zelickso chatted to Ring camera owners and Amazon employees, and said that number of factors converging to create a new managerial class of citizen who, often unwittingly, provides free labor to the company.

Much of this hinges on what report’s authors dub “boss behavior,” or “a range of actions, often undertaken in the name of safety or package security, that also function as the direct management of delivery workers.”

“Customers were… open about how the use of surveillance cameras encouraged them to penalise drivers more, whether by reporting them to Amazon, alerting law enforcement, or sharing footage online to shame them.”

This method is “ingenious,” write the authors. “Amazon has managed to transform what was once a labor cost (i.e., supervising work and asset protection) into a revenue stream through the sale of doorbell cameras and subscription services to residents who then perform the labor of securing their own doorstep,” they write in the report.

This unhealthy dynamic is only exacerbated by reported stressful and often dangerous working conditions experienced by full-time deliverers and gig employees enrolled in Amazon Flex, the company’s version of an on-demand gig labor force akin to Uber and DoorDash.

Like other similar services, Flex bills itself as offering people a more customizable job via variable hours and pay schedules, alongside the ability to choose their own healthcare options via the open marketplace.

Interviews with Flex drivers made it clear that the supposed perks “have hidden costs: drivers often have to compete for shifts, spend hours trying to get reimbursed for lost wages, pay for wear and tear on their vehicle, and have no control over where they work.”

Acting Director of the Amazon-focused labor and activist coalition Athena,  Ryan Gerety said  Data & Society’s report “confirms what workers, small businesses, and communities of color have long known: Amazon is not just an online store. It is a surveillance empire that fuels fear and mistrust,” adding the company is “turning everyday people into bosses and police” through its Ring camera systems.


Last modified on 24 October 2022
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