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Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Posts Tagged ‘Amazon’

Banks Will Soon Be Obsolete | The Nestmann Group

Posted by M. C. on June 26, 2019

Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Apple haven’t exactly done a great job of protecting user data. But traditional banks aren’t doing much better – a recent study from security consultancy Positive Technologies revealed that more than half of banks with an online presence allow fraudulent transactions and theft of funds.

There will be nothing crypto about your spending habits. The government and the ankle grabbing digital banks will make sure of that.

https://www.nestmann.com/banks-will-soon-be-obsolete

By Mark Nestmann

Last week, social networking giant Facebook announced that it plans to create what it calls an “alternative financial system” based on a cryptocurrency called the Libra. The crypto will be backed by a basket of currencies to keep its value stable.

Pundits immediately pronounced that the Libra could represent the beginning of the end for traditional banking. But while Facebook’s plunge into this space is the most ambitious effort by a Fortune 500 company to profit from the crypto market, the company hasn’t exactly done a stellar job of protecting user data. That makes me skeptical of its ability to safeguard your money.

Last October, Facebook announced that hackers had compromised more than 30 million accounts by taking advantage of vulnerabilities that have now been patched. A month later, researchers uncovered a vulnerability in Facebook Messenger that hackers could use to reveal the identity of the people with whom you exchanged messages. And who can forget the seemingly innocent quizzes that were used to gain access to 50 million Facebook accounts in an effort to affect the outcome of the 2016 presidential election?

It’s one thing to load photos of your cat doing stupid tricks onto your Facebook account. It’s quite another to trust the company with your money. Although Facebook says that Libra’s governance model will ensure “separation between social and financial data,” I suspect Libra will appeal mainly to people who don’t have bank accounts and have no practical way to open them. Facebook cited a figure of 1.7 billion adults in this category, with nearly half of them living in Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, and Pakistan.

Still, the launch of the Libra is a proverbial shot across the bow for the banking industry. And it couldn’t come too soon.

Our global financial system is built on the flawed foundation of a poorly understood concept called fractional reserve banking…

The biggest risk of fractional reserve banking is, of course, the “bank run.” If a bank lends out too much of the funds on reserve and everyone wants their money at once, the bank won’t be able to pay everyone. Deposit insurance schemes evolved in the 20th century to shield bank customers from this possibility. As a result, bank customers in most countries treat their deposits, including those that are uninsured, as if they’re 100% backed by actual reserves.

Then came the 2013 Cyprus financial crisis and the collapse of the country’s banking system. In exchange for a €10 billion bailout from the European Central Bank, Cyprus agreed to force uninsured depositors to submit to a “bail-in.” Instead of getting their money back, depositors holding uninsured accounts that exceeded €100,000 received stock in the failed bank. Uninsured depositors at the worst-capitalized bank that failed lost all their money.

Bank regulators around the world quickly took notice, and by the end of 2014, decided to extend the bail-in model worldwide. Deposits in banks that are “too big to fail” will be “promptly recapitalized” with their “unsecured debt.” This avoids the taxpayer-funded bailouts that proved so politically unpopular during the 2008–2009 financial crisis.

And the largest chunk of unsecured debt is your bank deposits. Insolvent banks will recapitalize themselves by converting your deposits into stock…

Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Apple haven’t exactly done a great job of protecting user data. But traditional banks aren’t doing much better – a recent study from security consultancy Positive Technologies revealed that more than half of banks with an online presence allow fraudulent transactions and theft of funds. But security is likely to gradually improve, and the tech giants will provide much-needed competition for what was for many years an effective payments monopoly by fractional reserve banks.

I look forward to the day when the fractional reserve banking system takes its last breath.

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Elizabeth Warren’s Antitrust Crusade – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on June 19, 2019

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2019/06/dom-armentano/elizabeth-warrens-antitrust-crusade/

By

Elizabeth Warren has made antitrust a major public policy issue in her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. She has argued that several high-tech companies such as Amazon, Google and Facebook are just too big and that they should be broken up by the Justice Department in a major antitrust initiative.

Let’s be clear. Using antitrust regulation to break up large companies is an economic and civil liberties nightmare. Those who advocate such policies always fall victim to what Friedrich Hayek termed the “fatal conceit; that is, the assumption that regulators (and the courts) somehow know better than market participants how goods and services should be produced and sold…

Elizabeth Warren has maintained that Amazon, Facebook, and Google are just too big; but too big for whom? She must know that simply being “too big” is not a violation of antitrust law. Indeed, the traditional mission of antitrust is to protect consumers from the high prices and anti-competitive practices established through “conspiracy” or through the exercise of “monopoly power” in some relevant market. Yet Facebook, Amazon and Google do not charge high prices; indeed, they do not charge ANY explicit price at all but secure the bulk of their revenue through advertising. And even if some of their economic or privacy practices are determined to be questionable at some point, that alone would hardly justify any legal divestiture.

The fact remains that all of these companies are successful because consumers freely and repeatedly use their services. They all compete in legally open markets where other firms are free to raise capital and offer alternatives. Disgruntled consumers that choose not to use the free services of Amazon or Google can easily mouse click to other search engines (Bing in the case of Google) and several other online retailers in the case of Amazon. And, of course, no one is forced to participate in the Facebook universe at all (your author does not) and opting out (if you are in) is always possible. So from a strict price and choice perspective, it would be difficult to make a convincing argument that divestiture is justified or would produce the results intended…

Antitrust has a very checkered past and those who advocate its use would do well to study its history more closely. After all, there is almost no economic problem, real or imagined, that cannot be made worse by inappropriate government regulation. Antitrust is no exception.

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Amazon Hits Back Against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Posted by M. C. on June 18, 2019

https://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2019/06/amazon-hits-back-against-alexandria.html?m=1

by Robert Wenzell

During an interview on ABC News’ “This Week” on Sunday, the socialist congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez charged that Amazon was paying its workers “starvation wages.”

“I spend less time thinking about [Amazon CEO and founder] Jeff Bezos and more time thinking about Amazon warehouse workers,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “I think about the outcomes I want for those folks. Whether Jeff Bezos is a billionaire or not is less of my concern than if your average Amazon worker is making a living wage, if they have guaranteed health care and if they can send their kids to college tuition-free.”

“And if that’s the case,” she added, “and Jeff Bezos is still a billionaire — that’s one thing. But if his being a billionaire is predicated on paying people starvation wages and stripping them of their ability to access health care, and also if his ability to be a billionaire is predicated on the fact that his workers take food stamps so I’m paying for him to be a billionaire… I think it’s certainly a part of the equation when you have a very large workforce and you underpay every single person.”

In other words, AOC continues her hate of capitalism and promotion of the Marxist theme of the exploitation of workers, even though present-day workers in the capitalist United States have a standard of living that is among the highest in the history of man.

Amazon responded with a weak statement:

These allegations are absurd. Amazon associates receive industry-leading pay starting at $15 an hour — in fact, hourly associates at our Staten Island facility earn between $17.30 and $23 an hour, plus benefits which include comprehensive medical, dental and vision insurance. On top of these benefits, Amazon pre-pays 95% of continuing education tuition costs through its Career Choice program for associates who want to pursue in-demand careers.

The company should have added:

What we pay workers is extremely competitive in every region where we employ workers, otherwise, workers wouldn’t work for us.

It is simply the height of illogic for AOC to promote the idea that the 657,000 employees of Amazon are not aware of what their alternatives are and it is an insult for AOC to promote the idea that the marginal revenue product of American workers is so low that they are “starving.” This type of perspective is nothing but capitalist hate fueled by a fundamental lack of understanding of basic economics and how an economy functions. If she really wanted to help low-level workers she should call for the immediate end of income taxes and payroll taxes for amnyone earning under $51, 999 per year. Those taxes are coercion enforced by the gun, something we would never practice at Amazon.

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CREEPY: Amazon and Facebook Both Want to Read Human Emotions

Posted by M. C. on June 3, 2019

Facebook wants “emotionally sensitive” robots

Amazon has announced it’s developing a personal assistance robot, so the new emotional technology could easily be integrated into this at-home robot as a means to “serve the consumer better.”

Walmart was also looking into to monitoring your biometric data, pulse, and location from the sensors on a shopping cart handle.

Amazon’s own facial “Rekognition” software erroneously and hilariously identified 28 members of Congress as people who have been arrested for crimes.

One step away from psychologically sensitive. Will you pass the CIA’s Facebook’s definition of psychologically “normal”?

https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2019/06/03/creepy-amazon-facebook-both-want-read-human-emotions/

Aaron KESEL

Facebook and Amazon’s insanity only seems to continue with no sign of slowing down anytime soon. Now, the two big conglomerate giants want to move into the uncharted territory of reading human emotions, both in their own ways.

Facebook wants a robot that has five senses which can read human emotions. Facebook wants “emotionally sensitive” robots that can explore the world, identify objects and people and enable its users to make more friends, .

The robots would be fitted with wheels or tank-like caterpillar treads that would allow them to trundle about their environment.

Alternatively, such robots could be fitted out with drive systems that would allow them to move around underwater, fly through the air or float in space, Facebook suggest in their patent.

I am not sure why anyone would trust Facebook with data ever again, let alone biometric data, after all the numerous scandals Activist Post has documented including data mining. But to each their own I guess.

Amazon is also looking into reading human emotions in a completely different way by utilizing a voice-activated wearable device, that will sense its wearer’s state of mind by the tone of voice, Bloomberg reported...

Amazon has announced it’s developing a personal assistance robot, so the new emotional technology could easily be integrated into this at-home robot as a means to “serve the consumer better.” A horrifically terrifying thought indeed…

Previously, Activist Post reported that Walmart was also looking into to monitoring your biometric data, pulse, and location from the sensors on a shopping cart handle.

This news comes as hundreds of retail stores — and soon thousands — are investigating using biometric facial recognition software FaceFirst to build a database of shoplifters to aid in the fight against theft,  Activist Postreported.

FaceFirst is designed to scan faces as far as 50 to 100 feet away…

However, facial recognition technology currently has a lot of problems. Activist Post has also reported how Amazon’s own facial “Rekognition” software erroneously and hilariously identified 28 members of Congress as people who have been arrested for crimes.

Activist Post previously reported on another test of facial recognition technology in Britain which resulted in 35 false matches and 1 erroneous arrest. We have further reported recently on a watchdog observing UK Metropolitan Police trials. Big Brother Watch stated the technology has misidentified members of the public, including a 14-year-old black child in a school uniform who was stopped and fingerprinted by police, as potential criminals in as much as 96 percent of scans…

In 2018 it was reported that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies were using this same Amazon Facial Rekognition technology to sift through surveillance data.

Defense One reports that “AI-Enabled Cameras That Detect Crime Before it Occurs Will Soon Invade the Physical World” are in the works and on display at ISC West, a recent security technology conference in Las Vegas.

Activist Post has previously reported in its own way that the rise of facial recognition technology is inevitable and, as a result, the death of one’s privacy is sure to come with it…

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Amazon’s Alexa Reviewers Can Access Customers’ Home Addresses

Posted by M. C. on April 24, 2019

Is it open mic night at your house?

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/technology/amazons-alexa-reviewers-can-access-customers-home-addresses/ar-BBWfwuH

Matt Day, Giles Turner and Natalia Drozdiak
(Bloomberg) — An Amazon.com Inc. team auditing Alexa users’ commands has access to location data and can, in some cases, easily find a customer’s home address, according to five employees familiar with the program.

The team, spread across three continents, transcribes, annotates and analyzes a portion of the voice recordings picked up by Alexa. The program, whose existence Bloomberg revealed earlier this month, was set up to help Amazon’s digital voice assistant get better at understanding and responding to commands.

Team members with access to Alexa users’ geographic coordinates can easily type them into third-party mapping software and find home residences, according to the employees, who signed nondisclosure agreements barring them from speaking publicly about the program.

While there’s no indication Amazon employees with access to the data have attempted to track down individual users, two members of the Alexa team expressed concern to Bloomberg that Amazon was granting unnecessarily broad access to customer data that would make it easy to identify a device’s owner…

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Amazon Workers Are Listening to What You Tell Alexa

Posted by M. C. on April 11, 2019

SHOCKED!

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-04-10/is-anyone-listening-to-you-on-alexa-a-global-team-reviews-audio?srnd=premium

By

and

Tens of millions of people use smart speakers and their voice software to play games, find music or trawl for trivia. Millions more are reluctant to invite the devices and their powerful microphones into their homes out of concern that someone might be listening.

Sometimes, someone is.

Amazon.com Inc. employs thousands of people around the world to help improve the Alexa digital assistant powering its line of Echo speakers. The team listens to voice recordings captured in Echo owners’ homes and offices. The recordings are transcribed, annotated and then fed back into the software as part of an effort to eliminate gaps in Alexa’s understanding of human speech and help it better respond to commands.

The Alexa voice review process, described by seven people who have worked on the program, highlights the often-overlooked human role in training software algorithms. In marketing materials Amazon says Alexa “lives in the cloud and is always getting smarter.” But like many software tools built to learn from experience, humans are doing some of the teaching.

The team comprises a mix of contractors and full-time Amazon employees who work in outposts from Boston to Costa Rica, India and Romania, according to the people, who signed nondisclosure agreements barring them from speaking publicly about the program. They work nine hours a day, with each reviewer parsing as many as 1,000 audio clips per shift, according to two workers based at Amazon’s Bucharest office, which takes up the top three floors of the Globalworth building in the Romanian capital’s up-and-coming Pipera district. The modern facility stands out amid the crumbling infrastructure and bears no exterior sign advertising Amazon’s presence.

The work is mostly mundane. One worker in Boston said he mined accumulated voice data for specific utterances such as “Taylor Swift” and annotated them to indicate the searcher meant the musical artist. Occasionally the listeners pick up things Echo owners likely would rather stay private: a woman singing badly off key in the shower, say, or a child screaming for help. The teams use internal chat rooms to share files when they need help parsing a muddled word—or come across an amusing recording…

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Bokhari: Amazon Is on a Digital Book Burning Spree

Posted by M. C. on April 9, 2019

The same guy that owns WaPo. So what does he ALLOW to be printed?

Tommy Robinson was jailed in the UK for attempting to cover the Pakistani groomer trial, against government wishes. Ten year coverups of ME child groomers, for Islamic PC purposes, are embarrassing.

https://www.breitbart.com/author/allum-bokhari/

by ALLUM BOKHARI

Under pressure from left-wing journalists and activists, Amazon is purging right-wing authors from its store, including a book co-authored by English Islam critic and independent commentator Tommy Robinson.

The web retail giant has become the dominant market player in book sales, accounting for nearly 50 percent of physical and 83 percent of e-book sales in the U.S. As such, Amazon has the power to effectively cut an author off from the vast majority of the books market.

Amazon began its new round of purges by targeting the white nationalist fringe. In February, the tech giant banned a number of books from white identitarian Jared Taylor, and a book called The White Nationalist Manifesto by Greg Johnson.

This followed bans on Holocaust revisionist books in 2017, and a purge of all books by controversial pickup blogger and author Daryush “Roosh” Valizadeh in 2018.

As with financial blacklisting, a censorship spree that starts by targeting extreme ideas quickly moves towards the censorship of more mainstream ones. In early March, the online retailer banned Muhammed’s Koran: Why Muslims Kill for Islam, a Chronological Koran and critique of the Islamic religion co-authored by British populist Tommy Robinson.

The book is a chronological reordering of the Islamic Koran, followed by commentary by Robinson and his co-author, Peter McLoughlin. Amazon did not return Breitbart News’ request for an explanation of why the book was banned…

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Bill Maher Bashes Middle America: Less ‘Affluent and Educated’ People Who ‘Want to Be Us’

Posted by M. C. on February 24, 2019

The nation’s premier progressive spokesperson has it backward about whom wants own who.

Are you one of Maher’s deplorable?

https://www.breitbart.com/entertainment/2019/02/24/bill-maher-bashes-middle-america-less-affluent-and-educated-people-who-want-to-be-us/

By Ben Kew

“Maybe that has something to do with why Trump voters are obsessed with ‘owning the libs.’ Because the libs own everything else,” he continued. “The blue parts of America are having a big prosperity party while that big sea of red feels like their invitation got lost in the mail.”

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New Deals (Even Green Ones) Are Bonanzas For Big Business

Posted by M. C. on February 18, 2019

https://townhall.com/columnists/jonahgoldberg/2019/02/15/new-deals-even-green-ones-are-bonanzas-for-big-business-n2541520

Amazon is taking its ball and going home, and New York Democrats are actually celebrating.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the deal New York and Amazon worked out. I don’t like corporate welfare, and the race among municipalities to bribe businesses to set up shop in their backyards has a lot of problems. The news that Amazon is spurning the Big Apple and searching for a different location will undoubtedly spark an unseemly frenzy among other cities, reminiscent of the search for the last golden ticket in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”

But what’s just astounding to me is how Democrats can (almost in one breath, figuratively speaking) champion a Green New Deal that would use the powers of the state — taxes, subsidies, regulatory bullying, etc. — to herd whole industries into alignment with their vision of a just and green society, and at the same time denounce these very tactics when actually put into practice.

The most prominent architect of the GND is New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Under her proposal, cows might suffer, but humans will thrive thanks to all the wonderful new jobs and free health care her utopian scheme would provide.

AOC, as she’s ubiquitously called, rejects the idea that traditional market economics or fiscal bookkeeping should be any hindrance to her scheme.

“I think the first thing that we need to do is kind of break the mistaken idea that taxes pay for 100 percent of government expenditure,” she recently told NPR’s Steve Inskeep. “It’s just not how government expenditure works. … Government projects are often financed by a combination of taxes, deficit spending and other kinds of investments — you know, bonds and so on.”

When Inskeep pointed out to her that deficit spending is “borrowing money that has to be paid back eventually through taxes,” AOC reversed herself with an impressive lack of embarrassment, saying that’s OK because this isn’t spending, it’s investing. Borrowing tens of trillions for her “investments” will pay for itself, “Because we’re creating jobs.”

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Jeff Bezos Puts the Pentagon on His Monopoly Board | The American Conservative

Posted by M. C. on November 5, 2018

The real prize is to become the military’s sole procurement source for off-the-shelf components. 

Employees at Google and Microsoft...They don’t want to be responsible for developing technology that causes substantial harm, surveils others in violation of international norms, or contravenes human rights.

Do Google and MS have an App for selective guilt? Here is where I get to use one of my favorite terms, thank you Star Trek.

Non sequitur

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/amazon-joins-the-military-to-further-its-dominance/

By JASON C. DITZ

Speaking at the Wired 25th anniversary last month month, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced that his company will continue to accept Pentagon contracts. That includes a very controversial cloud-computing contract that Google and Microsoft have already backed out of due to vocal employee opposition to working with the U.S. military.

Amazon was long considered the front-runner for this contract, but Bezos’s rationale for taking it goes well beyond its being low-hanging fruit. He’s argued that the government’s job is to “make the right decision, even when it’s unpopular,” and that large tech companies should support those decisions irrespective of politics.

The $10 billion tied to the contract can’t hurt either. Whatever his motivation for sucking it up and taking one for team tech, Bezos’s public justification is a poor one, and it isn’t hard to see why. The Pentagon has a long history of immoral and reckless behavior, actions that objectively aren’t beneficial to the defense of the United States. Any company that blindly works with them does so at its own peril. Read the rest of this entry »

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