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Posts Tagged ‘Amazon’

“This Was A Coordinated Attack”: Parler CEO Speaks Out After Amazon Boots From AWS, Vows To Rebuild ‘From Scratch’ | ZeroHedge

Posted by M. C. on January 10, 2021

The media as anti-trump vaccine. Kill it before it mutates.

https://www.zerohedge.com/political/amazon-employees-demand-company-drop-parler-aws-cloud-app-becomes-1-download

Tyler Durden's Photoby Tyler Durden

Update (2210 ET): Parler CEO John Matze has issued a statement (emphasis ours):

Sunday (tomorrow) at midnight Amazon will be shutting off all of our servers in an attempt to completely remove free speech off the internet. There is the possibility Parler will be unavailable on the internet for up to a week as we rebuild from scratch. We prepared for events like this by never relying on amazons proprietary infrastructure and building bare metal products.

We will try our best to move to a new provider right now as we have many competing for our business, however Amazon, Google and Apple purposefully did this as a coordinated effort knowing our options would be limited and knowing this would inflict the most damage right as President Trump was banned from the tech companies.

This was a coordinated attack by the tech giants to kill competition in the market place. We were too successful too fast. You can expect the war on competition and free speech to continue, but don’t count us out.

#speakfreely

* * *

Update (2130 ET): And so the hammer has come down late on Saturday, when Amazon officially kicked Parler off its cloud Web hosting service, AWS according to Buzzfeed. The suspension means that once the ban takes effect on Sunday, the website – which as of this moment is still up – will be offline until it finds someone else to host it.

* * *

Update (2100 ET): As expected, Apple removed Parler permanently from its app store on Saturday. “[T]here is no place on our platform for threats of violence and illegal activity,” the iPhone maker said, according to CNN which adds that Apple notified Parler of its decision in a message that said it had violated the company’s app store terms.

“The processes Parler has put in place to moderate or prevent the spread of dangerous and illegal content have proved insufficient,” Apple told Parler. “Specifically, we have continued to find direct threats of violence and calls to incite lawless action in violation of Guideline 1.1 – Safety – Objectionable Content.”

Apple’s notice said Parler’s responses to an earlier warning were inadequate, including Parler’s defense that it had been taking violent rhetoric on its platform “very seriously for weeks” and that it had a moderation plan “for the time being,” according to Apple.

A search for the Parler app as of 8pm showed that the app was no longer there, with the search query returning recommended substitutes:

“Parler has not taken adequate measures to address the proliferation of these threats to people’s safety,” Apple said in a statement to CNN Business. “We have suspended Parler from the App Store until they resolve these issues.”

Apple’s decision follows a similar move by Google to drop Parler from the Google Play Store, and after Amazon (AMZN) has come under pressure by its own employees to stop hosting Parler’s website on Amazon Web Services.

John Matze, Parler’s CEO, wrote in a message on his platform that Apple “will be banning Parler until we give up free speech, institute broad and invasive policies like Twitter and Facebook and we become a surveillance platform by pursuing guilt of those who use Parler before innocence.”

“They claim it is due to violence on the platform,” Matze wrote of Apple, whom he also accused of being a “software monopoly,” a particularly relevant attack right now given an ongoing antitrust suit against Apple from Fortnite maker Epic Games. “The community disagrees as we hit number 1 on their store today.”

Matze promised to share “more details about our next plans coming soon as we have many options.”

* * *

Earlier:

A coalition of Amazon corporate employees have demanded that the Seattle-based megacorp kick Parler off the Amazon Web Services (AWS) platform unless ‘posts inciting violence’ are removed, which would force the Trump-friendly Twitter competitor to find another host.

According to CNBC, an employee advocacy group – Amazon Employees for Climate Justice – said in a Saturday tweet that AWS should “deny Parler services until it removes posts inciting violence, including at the Presidential inauguration.”

Enough is enough. Amazon hosts Parler on @awscloud.

As Amazon workers, we demand Amazon deny Parler services until it removes posts inciting violence, including at the Presidential inauguration.

We cannot be complicit in more bloodshed and violent attacks on our democracy. — Amazon Employees For Climate Justice (@AMZNforClimate) January 9, 2021

More via CNBC:

Pressure has been mounting for Amazon to stop hosting Parler on AWS after other tech giants took action against the social media app in the wake of the deadly U.S. Capitol riot earlier this week. Google on Friday removed Parler from its app store for Android users, Google Play Store. BuzzFeed News reported on Friday that Apple has threatened to pull Parler from its App Store.

Parler, which launched in 2018, has emerged as a popular platform for President Trump’s allies in the last year by billing itself as a free speech alternative to mainstream social media services like Twitter and Facebook. –CNBC

To justify censoring Parler, critics have pointed to posts calling for ‘firing squads’ – like one from attorney Lin Wood (who some sayhanded the Senate to the Democrats by openly calling for Georgians not to vote in the runoff election unless the GOP candidates backed Trump’s election fraud claims).

In 2019, Amazon pulled the plug on their AWS partnership with Twitter alternative GAB over user posts. CEO Andrew Torba essentially blamed the CIA – claiming that a “PSYOP campaign started back in early December” in which newly created accounts were “popping up out of nowhere and making threats of violence.”

Torba’s letter continues:

After this week, it’s clear why this PSYOP was started: to take down alt-tech platforms and frame them for the January 6th protests that ended with the police killing an unarmed woman.

Almost instantly after police allowed protestors into the Capitol the New York Times started a baseless narrative that this protest was organized on alt-tech sites, and in particular on Gab, without offering any proof, screenshots, usernames, or evidence to back these baseless claims. I’ve recorded a video highlighting how this all played out. I hope you’ll take some time to watch it to learn how the CIA Mockingbird Media complex operates. The way we fight back is with truth and by speaking truth to their power, which is quickly fading. 

Meanwhile, Parler has jumped to the #1 app in Apple’s app store.

Parler saw approximately 210,000 installs globally on Friday 1/8, up 281% from approximately 55,000 on 1/7, according to data from the analytics service Sensor Tower. “In the U.S., the app saw approximately 182,000 first-time downloads on 1/8, up 355% from about 40,000 installs on 1/7. Since Wednesday, the app has seen approximately 268,000 installs from across U.S. app stores,” a press rep from Sensor Tower wrote in an email. -TechCrunchAnd as conservatives scramble to download the app before it’s deplatformed at yet another social media giant, we now have to wonder if they’ll even be able to find a new home among a collusive constellation of big-tech – at least one of which used to value the phrase ‘think different.’

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EconomicPolicyJournal.com: What is the Problem With, For “Social Justice” Purposes, Taking Half of the $203 Billion Wealth of Jeff Bezos and Giving It To the Poor?

Posted by M. C. on November 21, 2020

https://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2020/11/what-is-problem-with-for-social-justice.html

Here’s a Don Boudreaux letter to a college student writing a paper on what he calls “the social justice of wealth redistribution”:

Mr. Eden:

Thanks for your e-mail.

You ask: “Why shouldn’t government tax away half of Jeff Bezos’ wealth and give it to America’s poor people.” In your assessment, “this would be fair without hurting Bezos.”

My disagreements with your assessment are many, but I have time now to list only three.

First and primarily, it’s immoral to take stuff belonging to other people. Because Bezos acquired his wealth lawfully, to take it is wrong. Note also that he acquired his wealth in a manner that bestows enormous benefits on hundreds of millions of his fellow human beings, and that he has already paid billions of dollars of taxes on his earnings.

Second, Bezos’s wealth is now reported at $203 billion. With 34 million Americans currently below the poverty line, confiscating half of Bezos’s fortune and distributing it equally to these poor Americans would give each a one-time windfall of $2,985. A nice sum. But it’s not enough to transform their lives. More fundamentally, people’s lives aren’t transformed for the better by being given windfalls. Transformation comes from within, personally, and from better policies that allow the creation of more and better opportunities.

Third, Bezos’s net worth is what it is because the vast bulk of it is invested in Amazon and other productive enterprises. If he suddenly must turn over half of his wealth to the government, he would not draw it from his consumption (which is what you mean when you say that this policy would not hurt Bezos). He would draw it out of his investments. And resources currently used in valuable productive uses would become much less valuable when turned into goods and services for current consumption. And so to give each poor American $2,985 paid for by Jeff Bezos would require that far more than half of his fortune be seized.

You might nevertheless be good with this outcome, for it would still leave Bezos very wealthy. It would still not put a dent in his lifestyle. But the American economy would suffer greatly. Not only would the economy lose, in one fell swoop, well over a hundred billion dollars of assets – which means the loss of whatever outputs those assets produce – but lose also untold trillions of dollars of assets over time that would have been, but will not be, created. Like it or not, people do not invest heavily when government seizes large chunks of the fruits of their successes.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
and
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030

The above originally appeared at Cafe Hayek

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The Police Are Requesting Data from People’s Smart Speakers at an Alarming Rate –

Posted by M. C. on October 5, 2020

Whitfield says police are becoming more savvy about the information in the smart speakers’ activity logs. He recalls a case where police found drugs in a household with multiple residents. Officers identified a suspect after seizing data from a smart speaker. Its log not only listed recent queries related to drugs but identified who spoke them. Google and Amazon speakers let users create profiles so the devices recognize their individual voices. This information helped police identify the suspect.

https://www.theorganicprepper.com/police-smart-speaker-data/

by Robert Wheeler

Remember all those conspiracy theorists and Luddites who told you they didn’t want Echo or Alexa devices in their home because those gadgets were spying on them? Well, they were right. That’s not even up for debate. 

If you were one of those friends who mocked them and called them crazy, you were wrong. Just admit it.

If you are bewildered by what you just read, please, read on.

Nearly ten years ago, writers like Brandon Turbeville and others were warning that “smart technology” and the “internet of things” were being developed for surveillance and manipulation purposes. (Despite the companies’ claims of greater convenience.) We’ve been in a virtual dragnet for years.

Those devices and technologies are ubiquitous and are being used to soak up data, private and personal conversations, interactions, and even movement. All of this openly discussed in mainstream outlets. Lately, this website has reported on the Nest, your phone’s location tracker, and other “smart” technology. We’ve even talked about how we all have “surveillance scores.

Take a look at WIRED’s article by Sidney Fussell, “Meet the Star Witness: Your Smart Speaker.” In this article, Fussell details a murder case in which an Amazon Echo device was presented as evidence.

He writes, 

In July 2019, police rushed to the home of 32-year-old Silvia Galva. Galva’s friend, also in the home, called 911, claiming she overheard a violent argument between Galva and her boyfriend, 43-year-old Adam Crespo. The two lived together in Hallandale Beach, Florida, about 20 miles from Miami.

When officers arrived, Galva was dead, impaled through her chest by the 12-inch blade at the sharp end of a bedpost. Police believe Crespo tried to drag Galva from their bed. She held onto the bedpost to resist, but the sharp end snapped, somehow killing her. Police charged Crespo with second-degree murder. He pleaded not guilty and was released on $65,000 bail, awaiting trial. In the months since the arrest, Crespo’s lawyer has presented a surprising piece of evidence in his defense: recordings from a pair of Amazon Echo speakers.

“I had a lot of interviews where people said, ‘Oh, are you aware that this could be the first time Alexa recordings are going to be used to convict somebody of murder?’” says Christopher O’Toole, Crespo’s lawyer. “And I actually thought of it the opposite way, that this could be the first time an Amazon Alexa recording is used to exonerate somebody and show that they’re innocent.”

When police and prosecutors collect smart home or speaker data, it’s typically used as evidence against suspects. The Hallandale Beach Police Department filed a subpoena for Crespo’s speakers, as they may have picked up audio of the argument Galva’s friend overheard.

The incident shows the growing role of smart home devices and wearables in police investigations.

In 2016, police in Bentonville, Arkansas, requested Amazon Echo data in connection with a man’s death, believed to be the first such request. Amazon initially tried to block the request, but later handed over the data. A murder charge against the defendant was later dropped, but the speaker, smart home, and wearable data has figured into multiple cases since then.

Requests for smart and wearable data has increased rapidly.

Fussell continues,

Earlier this month, Amazon said it had received more than 3,000 requests from police for user data in the first half of this year, and complied almost 2,000 times. That was a 72 percent increase in requests from the same period in 2016, when Amazon first disclosed the data, and a 24 percent jump in the past year alone.

Amazon doesn’t provide granular data on what police are seeking, but Douglas Orr, head of the criminal justice department at the University of North Georgia, says police now look for smart home data as routinely as data from smartphones. Data on a smartphone often points officers towards other devices, which they then probe as the investigation continues.

By amending a search warrant, police can “keep going to keep collecting data,” Orr says. “That usually leads to an Echo or at least some other device.”

As Orr explains, officers are getting more savvy about smart home devices, creating templates that simplify requesting data. Police departments often share these templates, he says, tailoring requests for the specifics of the case they’re investigating.

Google’s Nest unit reported increasing police demands for data from its smart speakers through 2018. Google then stopped reporting Nest data separately, including such requests in its broader corporate transparency report, which shows increased requests for Google user data.

In their terms of service, most major apps and websites include a clause warning users that companies may hand over their data if requested by the government. Law enforcement agencies file subpoenas or search warrants for data, detailing to judges what evidence they expect to find on the devices and how it may serve the investigation. Amazon and Google both notify users of a request for data unless the order itself forbids it. Any number of entities can request user data, but the companies say they prioritize requests based on urgency.

“Things like Homeland Security, they’re going to take high priority,” explains Lee Whitfield, a forensic analyst. “Other law enforcement requests will come in under that. And then things like divorce cases or civil cases, they have a lower ranking.”

In an emailed statement, an Amazon spokesperson said the company “objects to overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands” from law enforcement and referred WIRED to its policy on government requests. A Google spokesperson also referred WIRED to its updated policy on requests.

Forensic experts tell WIRED that information from the devices is valued because it can offer a timeline of a person’s activities, their location, if they’re alone, and can verify statements made during questioning.

. . . . .

Orr has studied the types of data police can pull from smart speakers like the Amazon Echo. “Voice clips are only the beginning,” he says. Speakers keep time-stamped logs of user activity. Police can examine these logs to get a sense of what someone was doing around the time of an alleged crime.

Fussell then provides another example of how these devices are used by law enforcement.

He writes,

Consider a potential suspect who can’t prove where they were at 11 pm on a Thursday, because they live alone. Something as simple as ordering pizza through a speaker would show the time and location of the request and, if voice recognition is enabled, who made the request. “It might be benign information that someone was ordering a pizza, but it might also be an alibi for somebody,” Orr says.

Police increasingly rely on wearables and smart devices to verify the claims people make during an investigation. Sometimes, the tools can reveal a lie.

Heather Mahalik, a forensics instructor, recalls a Florida case in which a man killed his wife, then tried to impersonate her. The husband sent texts and Facebook messages from his wife’s phone in an attempt to blur the timeline of her disappearance. While the woman’s phone activity continued, her Apple Watch showed a sudden drop in heart rate activity that the husband claimed was due to a dead battery. Activity on the man’s phone synced perfectly with when he used the wife’s phone to post to Facebook. Her phone showed no activity except for when the husband picked it up to post, with timestamps matching his activity to the use of the wife’s phone.

“We were able to tell from his device that he would pick up the phone, take 18 steps, and it corresponded with the time he posted a Facebook post,” Mahalik says.

Connecting information from multiple devices is a common practice, analysts say. Information on one device can suggest evidence on another. This ability to string together discoveries leads to what another expert calls a phased approach to digital forensics.

“They ask for something, the investigation moves along, they find something else interesting, and then they request the next thing,” says Whitfield, the forensic analyst.

O’Toole, Crespo’s lawyer, says police subpoenaed Crespo’s social media accounts right away, then requested his voice recordings about four weeks later. Officers wrote in the search warrant that the speaker data may include “audio recordings capturing the attack on victim Silvia Crespo.”

O’Toole says he intends to introduce the smart speaker recordings in his client’s favor. Via email, a spokesperson for Hallandale Beach Police confirmed the case was still active but did not provide further comment.

O’Toole says smart speaker recordings are part of several cases he’s working on, including a divorce in which a woman subpoenaed data from a smart speaker that may have picked up the sounds of her husband with another woman..

Whitfield says police are becoming more savvy about the information in the smart speakers’ activity logs. He recalls a case where police found drugs in a household with multiple residents. Officers identified a suspect after seizing data from a smart speaker. Its log not only listed recent queries related to drugs but identified who spoke them. Google and Amazon speakers let users create profiles so the devices recognize their individual voices. This information helped police identify the suspect.

“I just don’t see this going away,” Whitfield says. “I think this is going to be more and more prolific as time goes on.”

Whitfield is right.

It will never go away.

Advertisement of these technological devices as a tool for convenience was a manipulative tactic to introduce technological devices for their real purpose – the tracking, monitoring, and recording of citizens so that no action – no matter how small – goes unnoticed. We are already living in a surveillance state and it’s only going to get worse.

Once begun, this bell cannot be unrung.

What are your thoughts on things you said in your own home being used against you by the police? Are you taking any steps to protect yourself from this type of data being collected? Share your thoughts in the comments.

The Police Are Requesting Data from People\'s Smart Speakers at an Alarming Rate

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Only way to stop Amazon Alexa recording you at home is to BIN it, experts warn

Posted by M. C. on February 24, 2020

Read the rest if you want. You already know enough.

https://www.thesun.co.uk/tech/11012582/amazon-alexa-recording-audio-home-listen/

“Earlier this week, an ex-Amazon exec admitted that workers do listen to your conversations through Alexa.”

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Amazon reportedly wants to turn your hand into a credit card

Posted by M. C. on January 28, 2020

…and sold to the highest bidder. Or just stolen by…the government?

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/01/18/amazon-reportedly-wants-to-turn-your-hand-into-a-credit-card.html

Key Points
  • Technology giant Amazon is working to allow customers to connect their credit card information to their hands, The Wall Street Journal reported.
  • The company has reportedly begun working with Visa on testing out the terminals, and has discussed the project with Mastercard, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Synchrony Financial.
  • Amazon has already filed a patent for a “non-contact biometric identification system” that features a “hand scanner” to produce a picture of a person’s palm.

Technology giant Amazon is working to allow customers to connect their credit card information to their hands, so that they can scan for purchases with their palms at checkout areas in physical stores, people familiar with the project told The Wall Street Journal.

While Amazon’s plan is in the early stages, the company has reportedly begun working with Visa on testing out the terminals, and has discussed the project with Mastercard, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Synchrony Financial.

The company previously filed a patent for a “non-contact biometric identification system” that features a “hand scanner” to produce a picture of a person’s palm.

The news offers a look into Amazon’s ideas on transforming the way people shop in brick-and-mortar stores, and how it could work with credit card companies to further integrate itself into people’s financial lives.

The company already has major plans to expand its Amazon Go stores, which allow shoppers to buy without cashiers or checkout, as well as its voice payment service called Amazon Pay.

Amazon will have to address concerns from card issuers and customers over how terminals would detect fraud and the amount of personal information the company will receive from the scans.

Data collected from the terminals would be stored on Amazon’s cloud and used to study consumers’ Amazon.com spending habits, according to The Journal.

An Amazon spokesperson declined CNBC’s request to comment.

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MIT Technology Review: Amazon’s Alexa Devices Are Recording Your Life

Posted by M. C. on January 27, 2020

I acknowledge my responsibility here as a consumer. I knew the array of seven microphones I had put in the center of my house could hear what we were saying and act on it. I also knew that things we asked Alexa to do were being recorded and sent to Amazon, and that I could play back these recordings and delete them if I wanted to.

MIT, buddies with the CIA, ought to know what they are talking about.

A lot of Baa Baa Baa’s are recorded from the sheeple.

https://www.breitbart.com/economy/2020/01/27/mit-technology-review-amazons-alexa-devices-are-recording-your-life/

by Lucas Nolan

A recent report from the MIT Technology Review claims that Amazon Alexa home assistant devices may actually be listening in on people’s daily lives even when not given commands.

The MIT Technology Review reports in an article titled “Yes, Alexa is recording mundane details of your life, and it’s creepy as hell,” that Amazon Alexa home assistant devices are listening in on people’s conversations, a theory that has been around for some time but has never been confirmed.

The MIT Technology Review reports:

 

Beyond all the things I’ve clearly asked Alexa to do, in the past several months it has also tuned in, frequently several times a day, for no obvious reason. It’s heard me complain to my dad about something work-related, chide my toddler about eating dinner, and talk to my husband—the kinds of normal, everyday things you say at home when you think no one else is listening.

And that’s precisely why it’s terrifying: this sort of mundane chitchat is my mundane chitchat. I invited Alexa into our living room to make it easier to listen to Pandora and occasionally check the weather, not to keep a log of intimate family details or record my kid saying “Mommy, we going car” and forward it to Amazon’s cloud storage.

The MIT Technology Review notes that constant recording is one of the unfortunate downsides of home assistants that constantly listen for wake words such as “Alexa!” or “Hey, Siri!”

The MIT Technology Review notes that this is essentially an inherent issue with the technology, writing:

I acknowledge my responsibility here as a consumer. I knew the array of seven microphones I had put in the center of my house could hear what we were saying and act on it. I also knew that things we asked Alexa to do were being recorded and sent to Amazon, and that I could play back these recordings and delete them if I wanted to.

But it’s actually quite frustrating to sort through them. You can scroll through months’ worth in the app, but after you select and listen to one, tapping the Back button brings you to the very top of the list again. Deleting hundreds of rogue recordings one by one in this way would take me a very long time. I could delete everything, including the legitimate recordings, in one go, but Amazon warns that this will make Alexa work less well, so of course I’m unlikely to do it.

Breitbart News has previously published a guide explaining how to stop Amazon employees from having access to Alexa recordings, however, this does not stop the device from recording users’ daily interactions but rather protects them from being listened to by Amazon employees directly. Read the full guide here.

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Six Months at an Amazon Fulfillment Center

Posted by M. C. on December 9, 2019

Yes, we worked, but we had fun also.  When you discover your cart has a scale model of the U.S.S. Indianapolis beneath a pile of plush shark toys, you know that someone else shares your warped sense of humor.

https://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2019/12/six_months_at_an_amazon_fulfillment_center.html

By Christopher Knight

Having spent half of a year experiencing firsthand the labyrinthine bowels of an Amazon Fulfillment Center, I must ask:

“What are all the complaints about?”

Employment at Amazon was not perfect.  Then again, no job will be.  But for those wanting to establish themselves with a job history or get back into the routine of full-time employment, being at Amazon isn’t the torturous ordeal some have described.  Coming off a year’s sabbatical and being a technical writer before that, work at an Amazon facility was a shining opportunity to regain some lost footing.

In retrospect, I can’t but be thankful for that.  It wasn’t just the financial boon, but also the chance to persevere that elicited and encouraged growth and strength in both physical and mental senses.

Getting hired by Amazon was almost too easily achieved.  Applying online hearkens back to the glorious days of spinach-green Game Boy screens.  Pass a series of ridiculously simple mini-games and you are almost guaranteed an offer of conditional employment.  Show up for a scheduled orientation a few days later and there’s a rundown of various tasks, basic processes, and of course the benefits.

Speaking of benefits, they are more than liberal for an operation of Amazon’s size and scope.  Need time off?  The company is fairly flexible about that.  Employee discounts?  Offered out the wazoo.  Want to follow your dreams toward your one true career?  Stick around for a year and Amazon pays for most of your school tuition and books.  Want health benefits?  You get ‘em, your family gets ‘em, your dog gets ‘em.  The pay itself is better than average.  The one perk that I saw employees constantly begging for but were forever denied was free Amazon Prime.  And that’s no reason to gripe if it’s the worst that the corporate honchos refused to grant.

After that came the training: straightforward and comprehensive.  It could be the most fluid and forgiving training regimen that I’ve seen.  The learning curve was not particularly demanding, and new hires were given leeway as they gained a sense of their assigned tasks.

Every night’s shift began with everyone in the department doing “stand-up”: gathered around the supervisor of the evening,  we were given a brief summary of the night’s work, a rundown of any issues, and encouragement about what to look forward to during the next several hours.  A few stretching exercises and then it was off to the races.  For the next ten hours we were on Jeff Bezos’ time clock.

Is the labor hard?  At times, yes.  Especially during “Peak Season” between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve.  Otherwise it’s much like… gasp!… real work.  My schedule was Wednesday through Saturday nights, 6 p.m. until 4:30 in the morning.  There were two fifteen-minute breaks and one unpaid half-hour for lunch around 11.  The break room had six large-screen TVs and forty microwave ovens.  The vending machines were loaded with enough confectionary to feed a Texas county…

My stowing during those first few weeks?  Abysmal.  In fact, I was the very worst of the lot from our orientation group.  Getting fired would be a decision born within the circuitry of the Amazon master computer somewhere in Seattle, not any human judgment.  My career came a few steps too close to ending during that first month or so.

Instead the managers on site approached me with concerns about my performance, and then worked with me to improve my effectiveness…

Safety was the highest priority issue at our facility.  I believe it is much the same for other fulfillment centers.  During every stand-up we were drilled with how to properly handle heavy merchandise so as to avoid injury.  The “safe” routes of transit across the facility were clearly marked off: stay in the green and you’d be fine, but venture into the lanes delineated with red and you risked being hit by a forklift or other vehicle…

What truly earned my respect was how they accommodated a disability.  For a decade and a half I have dealt with the diagnosis of bipolar disorder.  Mania and depression at times dogged my steps during those long traipses through the aisles as I worked.  The average Amazon warehouse is so vast that at times two people can be a hundred feet apart with no clue that there are others in the building.  And every so often the silence and sense of loneliness would intrude upon my labor.

So I told my managers about it.  And they collaborated with me…

Amazon, we were told by managers themselves, isn’t likely to be a lifetime career for most people.  And it doesn’t have to be.  Six months after orientation I had been quietly told that I was being eyed for a management position.  Instead they bid me all the best as I prepared for a rewarding career helping others with mental-health issues.  I don’t know if that would have happened were it not for the time spent working at Amazon.  And hey, I worked through an entire Amazon Peak Season with no time off.  I can be proud of that accomplishment.

First steps are rarely glamorous.  But more often than not they lead to a much better and brighter future.  And when a person reaches that place, he or she can look back upon the oftentimes broken road that came before.  And then revel in the sense of their own achievement.

That’s something that no “easy” job can grant a person.  Or any handout for that matter.

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Data on your spending habits could be a gold mine for banks

Posted by M. C. on December 2, 2019

Banks know many of our deepest, darkest secrets — that series of bills paid at a cancer clinic, for instance, or that big strip-club tab that you thought stayed in Vegas. A bank might suspect someone’s adulterous affair long before the betrayed partner would.

Only if you let them and are dumb enough to pay a strip club bill or pay your liquor store bill or buy your ammo or … with plastic.

https://www.fox5ny.com/news/data-on-your-spending-habits-could-be-a-gold-mine-for-banks

There’s a powerful new player watching what you buy so it can tailor product offerings for you: the bank behind your credit or debit card.

For years, Google and Facebook have been showing ads based on your online behavior. Retailers from Amazon to Walgreens also regularly suction up your transaction history to steer future spending and hold your loyalty.

Now banks, too, want to turn data they already have on your spending habits into extra revenue by identifying likely customers for retailers. Banks are increasingly aware that they could be sitting on a gold mine of information that can be used to predict — or sway — where you spend. Historically, such data has been used mostly for fraud protection.

Suppose you were to treat yourself to lunch on Cyber Monday, the busiest online shopping day of the year. If you order ahead at Chipotle — paying, of course, with your credit card — you might soon find your bank dangling 10% off lunch at Little Caesars. The bank would earn fees from the pizza joint, both for showing the offer and processing the payment.

Wells Fargo began customizing retail offers for individual customers on Nov. 21, joining Chase, Bank of America, PNC, SunTrust and a slew of smaller banks.

Unlike Google or Facebook, which try to infer what you’re interested in buying based on your searches, web visits or likes, “banks have the secret weapon in that they actually know what we spend money on,” said Silvio Tavares of the trade group CardLinx Association, whose members help broker purchase-related offers. “It’s a better predictor of what we’re going to spend on.”

While banks say they’re moving cautiously and being mindful of privacy concerns, it’s not clear that consumers are fully aware of what their banks are up to.

Banks know many of our deepest, darkest secrets — that series of bills paid at a cancer clinic, for instance, or that big strip-club tab that you thought stayed in Vegas. A bank might suspect someone’s adulterous affair long before the betrayed partner would.

“Ten years ago, your bank was like your psychiatrist or your minister — your bank kept secrets,” said Ed Mierzwinski, a consumer advocate at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. Now, he says, “they think they are the same as a department store or an online merchant.”…

Be seeing you

With new ecosystems, is the future bright for banking?

 

 

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DHS’s Terrifying New Database, HART – The Organic Prepper

Posted by M. C. on October 7, 2019

Incidentally, the cloud hosting for HART is being done by none other than Amazon – you know, the ones with surveillance devices like the Ring doorbell and the Alexa home assistant and the Nest home security system. Does anyone see a pattern here?

https://www.theorganicprepper.com/database-dhs-hart/

by Daisy Luther

These days, you can’t really go anywhere without encountering cameras.  Going into a store? Chances are there are security cameras. Getting money at an ATM? More cameras. Driving through the streets of a city? More cameras still. Your neighbors may have those doorbells from Amazon that are surveilling the entire neighborhood.

And many of these cameras are tied into facial recognition databases, or the footage can be quite easily compared there if “authorities” are looking for somebody.

But as it turns out, it isn’t just facial recognition we have to worry about.

DHS has a new recognition system called HART.

Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology system is the alarming new identity system being put in place by the Department of Homeland Security.

DHS is retiring its old system that was based on facial recognition. It’s being replaced with HART, a cloud-based system that holds information about the identities of hundreds of millions of people.

The new cloud-based platform, called the Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology System, or HART, is expected to bring more processing power, new analytics capabilities and increased accuracy to the department’s biometrics operations. It will also allow the agency to look beyond the three types of biometric data it uses today—face, iris and fingerprint—to identify people through a variety of other characteristics, like palm prints, scars, tattoos, physical markings and even their voices. (source)

Incidentally, the cloud hosting for HART is being done by none other than Amazon – you know, the ones with surveillance devices like the Ring doorbell and the Alexa home assistant and the Nest home security system. Does anyone see a pattern here?

Also note that Amazon Web Services also hosts data for the CIA, the DoD, and NASA.

More about HART

As HART becomes more established, that old saying “you can run but you can’t hide” is going to seem ever more true. The DHS is delighted at how much further the new system can take them into surveilling Americans.

And by freeing the agency from the limitations of its legacy system, HART could also let officials grow the network of external partners with whom they share biometric data and analytics capabilities, according to Patrick Nemeth, director of identity operations within Homeland Security’s Office of Biometric Identity Management.

“When we get to HART, we will be better, faster, stronger,” Nemeth said in an interview with Nextgov. “We’ll be relieved of a lot of the capacity issues that we have now … and then going forward from there we’ll be able to add [capabilities].” (source)

The DHS wants to break free of the limitations of the old system with their new and “improved” system. HART will use multiple pieces of biometric data to increase identification accuracy.

Today, when an official runs a person’s face, fingerprint or iris scans through IDENT’s massive database, the system doesn’t return a single result. Rather, it assembles a list of dozens of potential candidates with different levels of confidence, which a human analyst must then look through to make a final match. The system can only handle one modality at a time, so if agent is hypothetically trying to identify someone using two different datapoints, they need to assess two lists of candidates to find a single match. This isn’t a problem if the system identifies the same person as the most likely match for both fingerprint and face, for example, but because biometric identification is still an imperfect science, the results are rarely so clear cut.

However, the HART platform can include multiple datapoints in a single query, meaning it will rank potential matches based on all the information that’s available. That will not only make it easier for agents to analyze potential matches, but it will also help the agency overcome data quality issues that often plague biometric scans, Nemeth said. If the face image is pristine but the fingerprint is fuzzy, for example, the system will give the higher-quality datapoint more weight.

“We’re very hopeful that it will provide better identification surety than we can provide with any single modality today,” Nemeth said. And palm prints, scars, tattoos and other modalities are added in the years ahead, the system will be able to integrate those into its matching process. (source)

HART will also use DNA.

Remember a while back when we reported that DNA sites were teaming up with facial recognition software? Well, HART will take that unholy alliance even further.

The phase-two solicitation also lists DNA-matching as a potential application of the HART system. While the department doesn’t currently analyze DNA, officials on Wednesday announced they would start adding DNA collected from hundreds of thousands of detained migrants to the FBI’s criminal database. During the interview, Nemeth said the agency is still working through the legal implications of storing and sharing such sensitive data. It’s also unclear whether DNA information would be housed in the HART system or a separate database, he said. (source)

Nifty.

The DHS is operating without any type of regulation.

Currently, there’s no regulation or oversight of government agencies collecting and using this kind of data. Civil liberty activists and some lawmakers are alarmed by this, citing concerns about privacy and discrimination. This hasn’t slowed down the DHS one iota, however.

Critics have taken particular issue with the government’s tangled web of information sharing agreements, which allow data to spread far beyond the borders of the agency that collected it. The Homeland Security Department currently shares its biometric data and capabilities with numerous groups, including but not limited to the Justice, Defense and State departments.

In the years ahead, HART promises to strengthen those partnerships and allow others to flourish, according to Nemeth. While today the department limits other agencies’ access to IDENT to ensure they don’t consume too much of its limited computing power, HART will do away with those constraints. (source)

Mana Azarmi, the policy counsel for the Freedom, Security and Technology Project at the Center for Democracy and Technology is one of those people voicing concern.

A person might give information to a single agency thinking it would be used for one specific purpose, but depending on how that information is shared, they could potentially find themselves subjected to unforeseen negative consequences, Azarmi said in a conversation with Nextgov.

“The government gets a lot of leeway to share information,” she said. “In this age of incredible data collection, I think we need to rethink some of the rules that are in place and some of the practices that we’ve allowed to flourish post-9/11. We may have overcorrected.” (source)

You think?

Many people voluntarily provide biometric data.

Many folks provide biometric data without giving it a second thought. They cheerfully swab a cheek and send it into sites like Ancestry.com, providing not only their DNA, but matches to many relatives who never gave permission for their DNA to be in a database.

Then there are cell phones. If you have a newer phone, it’s entirely possible that it has asked you to set up fingerprint login, facial recognition, and even voice recognition. It isn’t a stretch of the imagination to believe that those samples are shared with folks beyond the device in your hand. Add to this that your device is tracking you every place you go through a wide variety of seemingly innocuous apps, and you start to get the picture.

You can’t opt-out.

Back in 2013, I wrote an article called The Great American Dragnet.  At that time, facial recognition was something that sounded like science fiction or some kind of joke. Our drivers’ licenses were the first foray into creating a database but even in 2013, it far exceeded that.

Another, even larger, database exists. The US State Department has a database with 230 million searchable images.  Anyone with a passport or an immigration visa may find themselves an unwilling participant in this database.   Here’s the breakdown of who has a photo database:

  • The State Department has about 15 million photos of passport or visa holders
  • The FBI has about15 million photos of people who have been arrested or convicted of crimes
  • The Department of Defense has about 6 million photos, mainly of Iraqis and Afghans
  • Various police agencies and states have at least 210 million driver’s license photos

This invasion of privacy is just another facet of the surveillance state, and should be no surprise considering the information Edward Snowden just shared about the over-reaching tentacles of the NSA into all of our communications. We are filing our identities with the government and they can identify us at will, without any requirement for probable cause. (source)

Some people don’t even seem to mind that their identities have been tagged and filed by the US government. And even those of us who do mind have no option. If you wish to drive a car or travel outside of the country or have any kind of government ID, like it or not, you’re in the database. Six years ago, I wrote:

The authorities that use this technology claim that the purpose of it is to make us safer, by helping to prevent identity fraud and to identify criminals.  However, what freedom are we giving up for this “safety” cloaked in benevolence? We are giving up the freedom of having the most elemental form of privacy – that of being able to go about our daily business without being watched and identified.  And once you’re identified, this connects to all sorts of other personal information that has been compiled: your address, your driving and criminal records, and potentially, whatever else that has been neatly filed away at your friendly neighborhood fusion center.

Think about it:  You’re walking the dog and you fail to scoop the poop – if there’s a surveillance camera in the area, it would be a simple matter, given the technology, for you to be identified. If you are attending a protest that might be considered “anti-government”, don’t expect to be anonymous.  A photo of the crowd could easily result in the identification of most of the participants.

Are you purchasing ammo, preparedness items, or books about a controversial topic?  Paying cash won’t buy you much in the way of privacy – your purchase will most likely be captured on the CCTV camera at the checkout stand, making you easily identifiable to anyone who might wish to track these kinds of things.  What if a person with access to this technology uses it for personal, less than ethical reasons, like stalking an attractive women he saw on the street?  The potential for abuse is mind-boggling.

If you can’t leave your house without being identified, do you have any real freedom left, or are you just a resident in a very large cage? (source)

When I wrote that, it still seemed far-fetched but remotely possible, even to me. This was before we were really aware of anything like the social credit program in China or how crazy the censorship was going to become or how social media would change the very fabric of our society.

Now, it’s here and it looks like there’s no stopping it.

Be seeing you

DHS Issues RFI for Cloud-Based Biometric Processing System ...

 

 

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100 Years Ago Today, This Was The World’s Most Disruptive Technology – The Burning Platform

Posted by M. C. on September 9, 2019

https://www.theburningplatform.com/2019/09/08/100-years-ago-today-this-was-the-worlds-most-disruptive-technology/

Submitted by Nick Colas of DataTrek Research

Most Disruptive Technology

Submitted by Nick Colas of DataTrek Research

The history of US consumerism starts with the Sears Roebuck mail order catalog. Yes, the very same Sears that is struggling to emerge from bankruptcy today. But 125 years ago the company was every bit the disruptive innovator. A brief summary of how that happened:

  • Mail order became viable in the late 1800s because of the expansion of the US rail system, post office regulations that allowed for catalog mailers at 1 cent/pound, and Rural Free Delivery.
  • The first Sears catalog was published in 1894 with the slogan “The Cheapest Supply House on Earth”.
  • Its target audience was rural America, which in 1900 was 60% of the US population. This was a deeply underserved community, often with just a thinly stocked general store to supply all their needs.
  • The 1903 catalog added the commitment of “Your money back if you are not satisfied”, reassuring customers that buying a product sight-unseen was a viable way to shop.

We recently bought a 1920 Sears catalog from an eBay seller. Printed in late 1919, it is a fascinating snapshot of American life 100 years ago. And, at 1,493 pages, it is a remarkably wide-angle view of that image.

In studying this early bible of the American consumer, three points struck us as particularly salient when comparing 1920 to 2019:

#1: The comparison to Amazon.

  • Our catalog was published 25 years after Sears began its mail order business; Amazon is 25 years old today.
  • The scope of the Sears offering in 1920 was every bit as vast as Amazon’s is today. The company offered everything from men’s/women’s/children’s clothing to furniture, appliances, jewelry, home entertainment, toys, and even entire houses and farm buildings.
  • Sear’s merchandising method was exactly the same as what you see on Amazon’s website. Every item for sale had a picture, description, and price. The catalog is organized by the type of product offered for sale, something akin to “If you like this item, you might also like this…”
  • One key difference: Sears offered credit on expensive items. If, for example, you wanted to buy a “New Freedom” coal/wood stove, you could pay $86.50 ($1,100 today) or make a first payment of $10 and then $7.50/month thereafter until you had paid $95.50. That’s a 7.1% annualized interest rate, in case you were wondering. Amazon, of course, takes credit cards.

Conclusion: Sears was actually a more ambitious business model than Amazon when it started. On day one, it was already selling a wide array of products – not just books. In terms of consumer offerings, Amazon now is right where Sears was in 1920. Yes, there are more SKUs on the website, but in terms of what people needed in 1920 the Sears catalog is remarkably complete.

#2: Early stage technology.

  • The new technologies in 1920 were electric-powered appliances and phonograph players. Radio was still some years off – the only items in the 1920 catalog were Morse code transceivers.
  • A 110-volt vacuum cleaner retailed for $57.50 – $68.00 ($740 – $870 today). For reference, a top-rated vacuum on Amazon goes for $70 today.
  • A hand-crank record player went for $30 (basic tabletop) to $225 (solid wood standup), or $385 – $2,900 today. A Bluetooth speaker today goes for about $20.
  • A basic bicycle sold for $53, or $680 in today’s dollars.

Our takeaway: the big difference between 1920s technology and today is how quickly prices come down as demand rises. Part of that is related to infrastructure; for example, in 1920 only 35% of American homes had electricity but by 1929 68% were wired for power. That, plus the disruption created by World War II, explains why vacuum cleaners remained expensive and adoption rates remained below 50% until the late 1940s. The rest, of course, is globalization, both in terms of supply and demand.

#3: A big idea can go a long way.

  • Our 1920 catalog is a relatively early manifestation of a business that continued to prosper and grow for another +50 years. In 1974, at the height of its powers, Sears built the tallest building in the world in Chicago to house its home office.
  • The company started opening retail stores in the 1920s, predominantly in urban areas to augment its rural business, and eventually had thousands of retail locations. It built its own brands like Craftsman tools, Kenmore appliances and DieHard automotive batteries.
  • In 1931 Sears created Allstate Insurance and by 1934 it had agents in every store. In 1981 it added broker Dean Witter and real estate company Coldwell Banker. In 1985 it created the Discover credit card. It was even an early Internet adopter, developing the Prodigy system with IBM.

The lesson here: even if Sears is now a tiny shadow of its former self, it pays to remember this company had an almost 100 year run of success. It survived and prospered through 2 world wars and the Great Depression, living long enough to benefit from the post World War II boom. All from one big idea: a mail order catalog.

The corrupt establishment will do anything to suppress sites like the Burning Platform from revealing the truth. The corporate media does this by demonetizing sites like mine by blackballing the site from advertising revenue. If you get value from this site, please keep it running with a donation. [Jim Quinn – PO Box 1520 Kulpsville, PA 19443] or Paypal.
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